Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Sundowner Participates in the Noblesville Christmas Parade

photo by John Stewart
The Sundowner, made her debut as a float in the 2011 Noblesville Christmas Parade.  Donning gear from Nurpu River & Mountain Supply, she made her way through the streets of Noblesville, helping to share some Nurpu Christmas spirit.  Kevin & Kylene Huff (& Tank!) from Nurpu pulled the Sundowner, while photographer Ernie Mills documented the event en route. 

Kylene & Kevin Huff and Ernie Mills*
Nurpu's Kevin Huff Secures Kayaks for the Parade*
photo by Ernie Mills*


The Sundowner from Yukon River Trip Awaits the Noblesville Christmas Parade*

photo by Ernie Mills*

Tank Huff is ready to go!*

photo by Ernie Mills*
Downtown Noblesville*
Noblesville's 2011 Christmas Parade*
*Ernie Mills, Photographer

Nurpu was an invaluable sponsor for our Yukon River Trip!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Celebrate Good Times: Nurpu River & Mountain Supply

Our favorite gear shop, Nurpu River & Mountain Supply, celebrated its 5-year Anniversary this evening!


Jake & I were happy to take part in the festivities.  Nurpu is a top-notch business:  they have a great selection, competitive prices, and phenomenal customer service!  Nurpu was also a HUGE supporter of our Yukon River Trip, and we are so grateful for all that they did to help make our dream come true.

When you get a chance, check out Nurpu for all your hiking, boating, outdoor, & climbing needs.

Check out the cool 5-Year Anniversary stainless steel glasses we picked up tonight:
photo by Jake Nieten

Nurpu River & Mountain Supply
16907 Mystic Road
Noblesville, IN 46060
317.773.1560

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NEW BLOG IN PROGRESS

 

First Page:

Click here to learn about Jake & Susan.

Jake & Susan


Second Page:

Click here to learn about their Yukon River Trip.

Jake & Susan's Yukon River Trip



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

YUKON RIVER TRIP ANNOUNCEMENT

New Blog Coming Soon!

I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging about our Yukon River Trip (and will continue to do so here on this blog), but I feel that creating a new blog will be a better place to house future posts not related to our Yukon River Trip.  

We don't plan to stop dreaming and seeking adventures, so why should I stop blogging?  Whether the adventure is big or small, you can keep tabs on us by visiting our new blog.


Jake & Susan on a January Turkey Run State Park Hike in 2006 (Indiana)

As of now, my plan is to begin my focus on our home state of Indiana.


p.s.  I'm in dire need of a title for my new blog, so if you have any ideas, please send them my way!

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's New with Yukon River Trip?

~Susan is working on other pieces of writing--memoirs, reflections, narratives, etc.


~Jake & Susan are working on gear reviews--both video & the written word.  Reviews will include (but are not limited to) NURPU River and Mountain Supply, Going Gear, & Point6.  

~On August 30th, Susan will be presenting to her Mary Kay unit; she will share about her YRT and the lessons she gained from her summer adventure.

~On September 20th, Susan will be presenting at the Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program Dinner.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

10 Things I Hate to Admit about My Yukon River Trip

Here's a collection of thoughts, actions, or whatnots that I would have been embarrassed to admit before I went on our Yukon River Trip.  But somehow, these tidbits seem like an important part of my adventure that I should share.

1.  As I was standing in an empty partaking lot in Whitehorse directly after our time on the Yukon River, I felt nature calling.  Before I realized what I was doing, I had already scoped out a bear-free bush to relieve myself….  Sorry I can't make this story any better; I only said I scoped it out; I didn't act upon my newly acquired natural instinct.  Instead, I excused myself and walked into the nearby McDonalds.

2. The Canadian & US Border Officers we encountered were all younger than us.

3.  While on our Yukon River Trip, I will admit that my survival instincts did surprise me.  More than once I caught myself selfishly eying the remaining filtered water or coveting a larger scoop out of the dinner pan.  

4.  We listened to Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell album and sang at the top of our lungs…a few times.  (Hey, you try spending 14 days of your summer hauling an overloaded trailer while covering almost 7,000 miles; you'd be surprised what you resort to in order to stay awake and to divert insanity's scheme against you.

5.   Almost 2 weeks after returning home from our summer adventure, I was still sleeping in my clothes.  The Yukon nights got down to the low 40s (℉), and I was already wearing my warmest clothes when it was time to burrow into my sleeping bag.  Furthermore, changing required more exertion than just crawling into my cocoon of promised warmth; changing for bed just didn't seem important or necessary at the time.  I also slept along side bug carcasses--big ones, little ones…it just was not a priority to dispose of them before laying my weary head to rest for the night. The Yukon had a way of altering my priorities without ever really bringing them to my attention.

6.  I cried like a baby on the river…more than once. 

7.  I went 20 days without a full head-to-toe shower or bath.  Because the water temperature on the Yukon River was around 40 ℉, fully submersing myself in the chilly waters was not practical.  I got my nerve up twice to fully dunk my head for a good shampoo.  The water was cold and stabbed dull butter knives into any piece of flesh daring enough to linger longer than a brief moment or two.

8. I ate fallen food off the dirty cabin floor and deck of our boat--every precious calorie mattered!

9.   After our first week back home, I realized that I had only taken two showers:  one the morning we arrived home and one a few days later.   During that first week back on my way to the grocery store, one glance in the rearview mirror revealed that I had not put an ounce of makeup on nor had I made any attempt to tame the messy bun that was atop my head.  I had also neglected to put on deodorant (so unlike me!).

10.  During our Lake Laberge horror, I begged and screamed prayers up to God and thought He wasn't listening.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Back Home Again in Indiana...

After driving through the night one last time, I am happy to announce that WE ARE FINALLY HOME!  

How strange it was to pull into our driveway early this morning (around 7:00 AM).  As we approached our neighborhood, excitement festered and oozed out of us.  We wanted nothing more than to be out of the Expedition and done with our week-long drive, but as we pulled into our beloved neighborhood, a surrealness blanketed me.  The houses that led the way to our home were not as I remembered.  They seemed...smaller and...closer together.  The expected and anticipated familiarity of home did not embrace me.  The previous five years of residency seemed a lifetime away, not just a mere five weeks.  

After unhooking the Sundowner, we decided that it would be best to unload the boat & Expedition before getting too comfortable.  But before unpacking, we first explored our home, and thanks to our most awesome neighbor Karis, our air had been turned on the previous day and our fridge stocked with a few necessities (which included a couple of pizzas from Papa Murphy's, bread & deli meat...).  How blessed we are to have such awesome neighbors!  It truly is good to be home.



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jake & Susan Are Back on Dry Land!: Day 19 of the Yukon River Trip

     Jake & I are happy to announce that we have finished our Yukon River Trip adventure!  We pulled into Carmacks on the evening of our 12th anniversary, covering 202 miles of the mighty Yukon River.  Early on in our quest, we decided to forego our original destination of Dawson City for a number of reasons.  Though we definitely could have made the 460 miles to Dawson City, it became quite clear that we were losing sight of some of our original trip goals.
     Our venture quickly took on the feel of all work and no play.  Yes, we knew we had our work cut out for us, but even before we left town, we began to feel as though the planning of this trip was a second job.  Then when it was finally time to depart, the six-day drive wore us down even more (we only stopped at three motels--the rest of the nights we drove on through to cover the 3,300 miles to Whitehorse.  The weight and aerodynamics of the trailer and boat slowed us down much more than we anticipated.
     Once arriving in Whitehorse (finally!), we took two nights at the Yukon Inn to recover...or so we thought we would.  We quickly found ourselves running here and there--getting fishing licenses, last-minute gear, checking the river and launching sites, reorganizing our gear from the drive, making arrangements for storing our truck and trailer (thank you Sports North!), etc.  When we finally hit the river on the afternoon of July 3rd, we were still exhausted from the months of planning, the 3,300 miles of driving, and the preparations once reaching Whitehorse.
     As we got a handle on how the Sundowner maneuvered on the Yukon River, a river so different from any back home, we soon discovered that the wind was going to be our biggest challenge.  Lake Laberge, the 30-mile lake we had to cross early in our route, surprised us by how calm she appeared to be as we entered her waters.  At first, the glass-like surface and windless skies deceived us, as we later found ourselves battling the horrific winds and waves that Laberge is known to produce without notice.  The structure of the Sundowner took quite a beating from Lake Laberge (and so did we).
     After sneaking out of Laberge late in the evening and rowing through the night because her winds seemed to be the calmest then (thankgoodness for the almost 20-hours of sunlight), we found ourselves taking on the wind during the next stretch of Yukon River, known as the Thirty Mile River.  It was apparent that we would most likely continue to battle the wind--not the river--the whole way.  Jake & I found that we had not had any time to explore, play, recover, or even feed ourselves properly, and I wasn't journaling--simply recording the miles of the day and basic events.  We were just too worn down.  We felt we were putting in overtime covering miles, ignoring what the real purpose of our trip was.
     So, we decided to take a couple of days off to rest up, reorganize the cabin, and play.  Panning for gold and fishing were the highlights of this break; they were the first "just for fun" moments of the trip.  This made us revisit our goals and begin thinking about changing our final destination.  You see, Dawson City was not our goal; working together to live on our boat as we explored the awesome Yukon River and followed in the paddle strokes of so many before us.  We weren't exploring; we were simply covering miles and wearing ourselves out as we battled the wind with our boat, watching the canoes and kayaks zip by us.  
     We did the math daily; we could still make it to Dawson City, but with the frequent and unpredictable winds the Yukon blows, we knew we needed to readjust the final destination in order to meet our goals.  We worked hard, played a bit, and learned much during our fifteen days as we covered 202 miles of the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Carmacks.


(As we travel home we will be posting journal portions, pictures, 
and memories of our trip.  So, check back soon!)


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Departing from Carmacks & the Yukon River: Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip

...continued from "Jake's Return to Carmacks:  Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip"

In spite of the last 24 sleepless hours of bootless fishing, incessant gold panning, ill-intentioned visitors, relentless packing, and drawn out shuttle rides, we somehow managed to load up the Expedition for our impending departure.  Without reprieve, our next challenge awaited us:  getting the Sundowner on the trailer (and eventually out of the Yukon River!).   We knew battling the strong, swift Yukon current was unavoidable.

This picture is from the Sundowner's deck.  Our plan was to back the stern away from the bank & use NRS straps to pull the boat upstream a short distance to load the Sundowner onto the trailer before having the Expedition pull both trailer & boat up the ramp & out of the Yukon River.

Experience taught us to prepare for the worst-possible scenario:  losing the Sundowner to the current.  No boat ramps existed downriver, not even for the boat alone.  Overpowered by the current, the Sundowner would surely wreck, creating an expensive & nearly impossible retrieval.  Taking precautions, we tied one end of a blue NRS strap to our boat & anchored the other end to the trees until we combined the other NRS straps into two longer straps, securing both from our boat to the trailer.  These would serve as guide ropes, aligning the boat & trailer while also pulling the Sundowner close enough to attach the manual winch strap, which when cranked secures her into position.  We also hitched our battery powered winch on the bow of the Sundowner in anticipation of needing more than just muscle to load our boat.  And once again, we had an audience; a local couple materialized & watched us from their parked car on the circle drive (which, of course, added to the already escalating stress & pressure we were under).

Anchored by NRS Straps in Carmacks, YT

Backing the trailer down the boat ramp & into the water triggered yet another onslaught from the Yukon's unrelenting campaign to deny us any predictability.  As Jake inched the trailer farther out toward the necessary depth to receive the Sundowner, the river's powerful waters waged full force against the trailer.  The Yukon River strove for victory as its surging current grabbed onto the tail of our 2000 lb. trailer, threatening to carry it downstream.  The unforgiving water pledged one of three outcomes:  to mangle the trailer beyond use, to break the trailer from the Expedition, or to claim both the trailer & the Expedition as casualties in its assault.  My frantic screams & gestures sent the Expedition & the trailer lurching forward as Jake drove back up the ramp and broke the water's promise of demise.  And still, the couple brazenly watched our struggles unfold from the circle drive (a little help would have been nice!).

Onlookers usually parked on the left side of the circle drive
near the Carmacks boat launch.
 

Plan B transpired and then soaked in my anxiety & worst-case scenarios as Jake backed the trailer & the Expedition off the soft, squishy river bank & into a shallow pool just upstream of and next to the ramp.  From there, we followed our original idea of using NRS straps to secure & guide the Sundowner onto the trailer.  The forceful, icy current taunted me, and doubt stole my courage as I balanced on submerged bars of the slippery trailer & fought rushing water up past my knees.  I gave up trying to guide our boat toward the trailer with the NRS straps; Jake took over & grappled with the reigns to align the boat before we both wrestled the Sundowner into her secure position (and not without help from both the manual & battery powered winches).  The river just didn't want to let her go.

Climbing back into the Expedition, Jake stomped on the gas daring the mighty Yukon River to give the Sundowner up to its soft, mushy bank.  I yelled for Jake to stop after watching slushy sand & pebbles hinder the departure.  Tension rose as I shared my hesitation with Jake, and incredibly, two sets of eyes still stared out at us from behind the windshield of the parked car on the circle drive.  Jake ignored my disbelief & the gawking locals and floored the pedal again, this time spurring movement (& hope!).  The Expedition roared as it slowly inched forward.  My heart pounded as the back tires grabbed for pavement.  Holding my breath, I watched the trailer's first set of tires slide through the soggy sand.  Jake didn't let up, and the engine dominated with a slow, steady pace as the stern of the Sundowner left the water and the trailer's last set of wheels finally mounted the paved road!  I imagine the inquisitive locals parked on the circle drive expected their curious, doubting stupor to last longer.  Now what would they do?  I stood in my own lingering fog of skepticism & marveled at our first stroke of luck since our departure from Whitehorse nearly 3 weeks ago on Day 1 of our Yukon River Trip.  

Jake put the truck in park & joined me on the bank of the Yukon River to celebrate our latest feat before saying goodbye to our beloved spot in Carmacks.  Exhausted, we stood together trying to absorb the sobering reality & surreal finality of our exit off the Yukon River.






COMING SOON:
Click here to continue by reading 
"Returning to Whitehorse:  Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip."




Jake's Return to Carmacks: Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip

...continued from "Alone & Anxiously Awaiting Jake's Return to Carmacks:  Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip"

The Expedition continued toward me & the Yukon River until the circle drive rounded it away from the water's edge to grant easier access to Carmacks' public boat launch.  Backing up, Jake plunged the trailer into the water and then turned the Expedition to point back up the road for our impending departure from the mighty Yukon River.  Driving forward, Jake perched the trailer to wait on the edge of the bank while we would load the truck & plan how to combat the swift & powerful current in order to get the Sundowner onto the trailer.

Jake's exhaustion advertised itself on his face, showing me fatigue had claimed him as well.  After our reunion kiss & hug, Jake credited his delay to the bossy Germans that shared the shuttle with him & a friendly Swiss couple.  The Germans evidently mistook the canoe shuttle service for a chauffeur service when they so rudely commanded the shuttle driver to "Halt," making the other shuttle passengers & driver wait while they dropped in on & visited with a friend.  A second unscheduled stop at the Braeburn Lodge had also prolonged Jake's return from Whitehorse while the Swiss & German couples savored the famous, oversized cinnamon buns that nicknamed the Braeburn Airport as the Cinnamon Bun Airstrip.

Braeburn Lodge, photo by James Brooks

Braeburn Airstrip, photo by Luigi Zanasi, Wikimedia Commons Contributer

Before loading up, I started to share my vexing encounter of the ill-intentioned, pushy girl & her two creepy accomplices.  Because I was pleased with my performance, I presumed Jake would be also.  I expected showers of praise on how I handled this or that but was instead rebuked: "I knew it!  I told you!  ...That is exactly what I feared by letting you stay here alone....  Do you know how bad this could've been?!..."

"But Jake, nothing happened!" I would counter again & again after each chiding interruption.  The fact that nothing happened didn't seem to make a difference to him.  It was the could-haves that stoked Jake's temper (and still does years later).  

We will never see eye-to-eye on the decision made to our dilemma in Carmacks.  Jake will always regret letting me stay behind alone with the Sundowner because of the--in his mind--almost atrocious ending to our Yukon River Trip, and I will forever rejoice not fetching the Expedition & trailer all alone from Whitehorse, which excused me from facing the concocted possibilities of Worst-Case Scenario Girl.

COMING SOON: 
Click here to continue by reading "Departing from Carmacks & the Yukon River:  Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip."




Alone & Anxiously Awaiting Jake's Return to Carmacks: Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip

...continued from "A Worst-Case Scenario in Carmacks:  Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip"

Once my talkative, curious visitor and her two mysterious men in the magically appearing truck vanished--CUT!  Yeah, that's not really how I saw the whole situation.  "Talkative" and "Curious" and "Mysterious" are quite honestly lip service at best.  The Truth:  These three were up to no good--period.  
     
So, let me start again:  Once the ill-intentioned, pushy girl and her two creepy accomplices in the eerily stealthy truck slithered away after their failed mission (much better), I welcomed relief, regained focus, and once again engaged myself in the monstrous goal of organizing the Sundowner and all her contents, which had sustained us for nearly three weeks on our 202-mile Yukon River Trip.
     
Clothes & toiletries, uneaten food & kitchen essentials, fishing poles & tackle, knives & tools, sleeping pads & bags, towels & tarps, maps & cameras, dry suits & waders, rain gear & extra boots, books & writing necessities, and survival gear along with a wench all had to be prepped to be logically packed into our vehicle upon Jake's return to Carmacks.
     
I wanted all the boxes, trunks, bags, crates, & many, many piles of gear to be prudently laid out, ready to load up before Jake's return for two reasons:  1.)  I yearned for a near-perfect organization system because we would be spending the next 7-8 days riding in & living out of our Expedition, and 2.)  I wanted Jake to return to a job well done and appreciate (& maybe even be happy) that I stayed behind in Carmacks while he retrieved our truck & the Sundowner's trailer from Whitehorse.

Each glance at the clock showed advancing numbers that represented the growing time that separated Jake & I for the first time since our June 25 departure date over three weeks ago.  For 24 days Jake was virtually an arm's reach away from me; rarely was he out of my sight, except the handful of times one of us would wander a couple of streets away for a food run in one of the few towns where we grabbed a bed to alleviate the laborious task of hauling the Sundowner 3300 miles from Indiana to the Yukon River. 

Enough time had not passed to merit serious worry, but the sudden separation left me feeling strangely incomplete, allowing anxiety to fill the newly vacant space Jake's absence created.  The once seemingly impossible chore of prepping all of our gear for the arrival of Jake & the Expedition proved to be a blessing with the distraction it offered.  
     
Once Jake's earliest possible estimated arrival time had passed, my mind would frequently steal away & wonder--or worry, rather--how Jake's chore was playing out:  I wonder if he has made it back to Whitehorse yet....  Will our 12-year-old truck start after sitting so long?  What if the Expedition has been stolen?  Or it breaks down--or worse--wrecks on the lonesome & treacherous road between Whitehorse & Carmacks?  What will I do if he's not back before the town sleeps and foragers lurk & scheme in the nearby shadowy foliage?  Just about the time Worst-Case-Scenario-Girl was ready to permanently stake herself a tent in the land of anxiety, Sanity would intervene and chase the worry back into my subconscious where it festered before surfacing again.
     
The Gravel Road I Routinely Scanned in Anticipation of Jake's Return 

As the afternoon matured, I debated on transferring the contents of the Sundowner onto the bank in hopes of shortening our load time once Jake returned.  I knew this was a gamble; if the culprits with the duplicitous dealings from earlier returned, I may not manage as well in a second strike.  On the other hand, if I cut our work in half, Jake & I could make an earlier departure for our 112-mile drive to Whitehorse.  (Google Maps estimated the travel time as 2 hours and 17 minutes; however, during our 6-and-a-half-day drive to the Yukon, nearly doubling those estimates better matched the pace our Expedition chose while hauling the Sundowner.)  

Time or safety: that was the question.  I resolved to chance it & unload the aggregation of paraphernalia from the Sundowner onto the bank of the Yukon River.  Any time that I could cut to accelerate our departure meant that much less time between me and a shower & clean bed.  So, I sorted & shuffled our gear into a mock-up of our packed Expedition, following the blueprint my mind drew during earlier hours of my scrupulous packing.
     
The New Holding Plot for Our Gear    

At last, while grabbing another load from the bow of the Sundowner, I turned & beheld our trusty Expedition with trailer in tow heading my way.  Pure joy saturated me when I caught my first glimpse of Jake's handsome face through the windshield camouflaged by the reflection of the surrounding trees.  





A Worst-Case Scenario in Carmacks: Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip


...continued from "Jake's Fear Becomes a Reality during His Absence from Carkmacks:  Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip"

Even though Jake was miles and hours away, I heard his voice clearly weave through the chaos in my brain:  This is why I didn't want you to stay in Carmacks…alone.  The tone wasn't I-told-you-so; it was more of a sincerely, concerned why-didn't-you-listen-to-me?

Why didn't I listen to him? 

Well, I made this bed….so, I countered her proposal:  "If your friends want to meet me, they'll have to come over here."  I hoped I wouldn't soon regret my recommendation.  My suspicious agitation surged into consternation as I waited for her reply.

"They over there," she said, pointing again to the truck that had magically materialized into my world just moments ago.  This time I looked over at the halfway hidden truck.  My peripheral vision had not deceived me; two males sat in the truck. 

She interrupted my brain trying to discern the situation:  "Just for a minute.  They just over there." 


Pulling up to the red structure with the power lines, the gray pickup nestled between the Carmacks bridge & the brush just off the circle drive, providing them with a clear view of me and allowing me to see into the cab of the truck (after their presence was brought to my attention).

Something's not right (no, I didn't just then draw that conclusion…fraudulent motivations inched toward obvious from the moment I detected this girl).  Something within the obvious creeped me out and caused alarm to claw up my back and scratch its jagged nails up my neck.  This girl wasn't the source of my fear.  So, what was?  The two guys…in the truck….?  My intuition told me I was fine as long as I stayed on the Sundowner.  So…what was causing panic to fester within me? 

Finally, it clicked:  not once since my "discovery" of the two men in the truck--not once--had I seen either of them look my way.  They both just sat in that truck staring straight across the Yukon River.  Why?  They sat there waiting…waiting without wanting to clearly be seen by me.  It was as though they were anticipating a cue…my arrival to their truck perhaps?   A signal from the girl?  From someone else?  Oh God, no--not someone else!  My consternation snapped into fearful exasperation, and my eyes frantically scanned splotches of brush, the nearby bank, far-off tree lines, the distant boardwalk….   

Am I reading too much into this situation?  Or is Worst-Case-Scenario Girl having a heyday because she's missing the threats of daily life on the river?  Maybe I'm being too cautious….

The girl broke into my paranoid rationalizations and tried one last appeal:  "Come.  Meet my friends.  You will see boat from over there," she pressed.  "It's not far.  You still see boat over there." 

And that's what did it--she was offering me a solution to a problem I hadn't voiced.  I quickly drew three possible conclusions about this girl:  she was  1.) smarter than I had realized or  2.) coached well by someone that was taking advantage of her or  3.) the best damn actress I had ever encountered in person.  The skeptic in me highly doubted the latter.  Regardless of which conclusion was closest to the truth, I was done fooling around with the girl and her probable accomplices--no matter how many waited out of sight until a sign was given to move in and carry out their scheme.

Going for something stronger than my previous "subliminal emphasis," I moved to the side & peered into the cabin--as though to assess my unfinished work--knowing her curious, wandering eyes would fall upon the 12 gauge shotgun that was strapped to the center pole of the Sundowner's cabin.  With my hands on my hips, I swung back around, my KA-BAR Kukri Machete flared and flapped more dramatically than before.  "Well, it's time for me to get back to packing up this boat." 


My KA-BAR Kukri Machete

I'm guessing she saw the shotgun, for her presence soon drifted into a memory.  I wasn't trying to threaten her, only trying to plant the idea of the possibility that I could be trouble to her and others if they pushed me too far.  I don't feel that I angered or insulted her…probably just disappointed her--no matter what the real story was. 

True to my word, I got back to work and accomplished Goal #3 by making sure each item that accompanied us on the Sundowner was packed in a logical & memorable place.  Tackling Goal #4 pushed me physically after an already long day…week…month.  Nonetheless, I balanced back and forth between the deck and the boat ramp on our makeshift ramp (part of a tree stand ladder that we used to access the roof of our boat).  I hauled what I could off the boat and grouped items in anticipation of Jake's arrival.
 

After my time-for-work declaration to the girl, I can't recall if any more words were exchanged between us.  I also don't remember her walking off or the truck with the two males driving away (which still puzzles me--how did they get in and out of there without me hearing or seeing them?).  I just know I looked up from my work at one point, and they were gone.  In retrospect, what do I really believe could have happened had I gotten off the Sundowner?  I'm not thinking worst-case scenario like I did during the ordeal (and I believe most would do so in a similar potentially threatening situation).  Rarely does a predicament escalate into a worst-case scenario.  For survival's sake, I had to explore and assume the unimaginable to build a strong defense and eventually offense. 
 

However, hindsight leads me to believe that once I climbed off the Sundowner and trotted over to meet the "friends" in the creepy gray truck, others (unbeknownst to me) would have popped out of their hiding places to grab what they could before I came charging back with my kukri high above my head promising bloodshed if my gear wasn't returned (that is to say if I would have caught up with any of them).  A little more serious possibility could have led to a stolen boat; I shudder to even describe that picture.  Worst-case scenario?  To my knowledge, it didn't come close to that, so I'm not going to go there. 
 

I'm choosing to reflect on this memory as a learning experience with the following lessons:  1.) Being caught off guard always comes after letting your guard down.  2.) In future situations that I perceive as potentially dangerous, I only need to say "no" once.  If my requests/denials are not respected, I will not feel obligated to stay polite.  How I am perceived and how I make the opposing force feel no longer matters once I feel my safety is being jeopardized.  3.) Acknowledge your suspicions and intuitions, yet keep your paranoia in check so that you can think and act rationally to appear in control of yourself and the outcome of the threatening situation.  4.)  Maybe my perception of the situation was entirely wrong.  Maybe the two guys in the truck just wanted to ask about my Yukon River Trip, and they were just too shy to strike up the conversation.  Maybe…I doubt it, but…maybe.

 



Jake's Fear Becomes a Reality during His Absence from Carmacks: Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip

Prior to Packing Up the Sundowner in Carmacks, YT



I threw a "Well, hello!" her way as I sized up my visitor & surrounding areas.  She seemed to be alone, and she seemed to be somewhat young.  How young?  I could not tell.  Based on only appearances, I would have guessed her age to be mid to late teens or maybe early twenties (at most).  She appeared short, though I was aware that her height could've been dwarfed by the difference in our elevations, me on the deck of the Sundowner and her on bank of the Yukon River.  Her dark hair hung straight & long on both sides of her round Indian face.  She smiled a Jack-o-Lantern smile, and among the spaces where I assumed teeth once were, a rotted, black tooth jutted up from her lower gum line.

"Why you have a pirate boat?" she asked.  I knew she was referring to Nurpu's large logo on the sides of our boat and concluded she had been the one, along with others, that had been yelling "Pirate boat!  Pirate boat!" from the Carmacks bridge over the past few days.  
 

"It's the logo of a gear shop where we're from," I responded.

"But why?" she asked.

 
Does she not understand me?  Am I not understanding her question? "Because they are one of our sponsors for this trip," I offered, hoping to appease her question.


"Why pirates?  Are you a pirate?"
 

Am I dealing with a language barrier or what?  She spoke child-like, but why?  I tried another answer:  "No, we're not pirates; we just like pirates."  That seemed to satisfy her interest, or maybe I was frustrating her by not understanding what she really wanted to know.
 

"I come on your boat?" she asked while pointing to the deck of the Sundowner.
 

"Uh, I don't think that's such a good idea."  Oh, nice one, Susan.  My response lacked tack yet oozed truth.  I was shocked at how rude I sounded for two reasons:  1.) I wasn't accustomed to being so blunt, especially to strangers, and 2.) I recognized that apprehension prompted my crass reply.  If Jake was here, he would validate my frank words right after criticizing my self-inflicted abashment.
 

"Why?" she pushed, and uneasiness began to take root in the presence of my mind.
 

If Jake was here, he would have no problem telling her exactly why.  "Well...I've got such a mess up here; I wouldn't want you to you trip over anything and hurt yourself--"
 

"I won't hurt myself," she insisted as she inched toward our makeshift ramp.  Obviously, what I wanted didn't matter to her.  Or, maybe she just wasn't picking up on the fact that I did not want her on my boat.
 

"I really don't have the time to talk.  I've got so much to do; I've got to get this boat cleaned and packed up before my husband returns."  If Jake was here, he would disapprove of me needing to justify my refusal to her request.
 

"I just wanna look," she implored.
 

"You can look from down there while I work up here," I retorted, but somehow I didn't feel she would comply.  If Jake was here....Jake's not here.  Trying to subliminally & further emphasize my stance in the circumlocution of my words, I twisted a bit--like I was stretching out my back.  I did this to make sure she had not missed seeing the black kukri machete attached to my belt.  Mildly flaring out from my waist down as I turned, my knife separated from my profile to reveal 17 inches of "subliminal emphasis."
 

Something stopped her from boarding the Sundowner.  Was it my kukri or my tone?  In that moment I yearned that both appeared inflexible and serious.  Whatever it was dissuaded her from pursuing her prior plan.  If Jake was here, he would commend my deliberate--though nonverbal--attempt to assert my message.
 

"I'm sorry that I don't really have time to talk.  I really do need to keep packing," I offered.  Jake would roll his eyes at my apology and politely enhanced tone.
 

"Why?" she questioned.  Here we go again, I thought.

"I told you that I've got to get this boat all cleaned up and packed before my husband gets back."
 

"Why?"  Seriously?! Is she presumptuous or just shamelessly curious?  Or worse...?
 

"Well...we've got a long drive ahead of us, and I want to have everything ready by the time he gets back."
 

"Where's he at?"
 

Geez!  Is there no end to this girl's questions?  "He went to get our truck and will be right back."  That statement was half true and half not so true.  Jake was getting our truck, but he was hours away from being "right back."
 

Why was I not surprised when she produced another question?  "Where's your truck?"
 

Knowing that my reply probably wouldn't pacify her inquiry, I said, "I told you...with my husband." 
 

"And where's he?"  Okay, where's the hidden camera?  I'm about to blow a gasket; this girl is not for real!
 

"Getting our truck so that we can haul our boat home."  I knew I was sending this conversation in circles, but I did not want to provide her with any more information, and I just didn't have what it would take to tell her to go away.
 

A brief moment fluttered in the air between us as she seemed to decipher my words...or perhaps change her tactics.  "Come meet my friends," she insisted. "They want to meet you."
 

Wait--what friends?!  And before my mouth could form the words, she pointed to her right, toward the bridge. 
 

Suspicious agitation shattered my uneasiness.  Out of the corner of my eye emerged a gray pickup truck--not even 40 yards from me--nestled between the Carmacks bridge and some unkempt brush just off the circle drive.  My peripheral vision detected two male passengers.  Questions spewed and clamored in my head:  When did they get here?  How long have they been here?  How did I not hear their truck?  What did they want? 
 






Packing Up the Sundowner in Carmacks: Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip

...continued from "A Dilemma & Departure in Carmacks:  Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip"

Jake's departure propelled me into action; I probably had more work than I could fit into his anticipated 4-hour absence.  I welcomed the work that sprawled around me because it left no time to ponder & fret over Jake's journey.  A strategy surfaced, and I launched my campaign to triumph over the endless job of prepping & packing for our long drive home. 
 

I had four major goals:
1.)  dress man-like in order to not draw attention to myself as a lone female on our alluring boat that surely held desirable souvenirs for those with bold, corrupt intentions
2.)  dry out the boat, tarps, floor mats, gear, shoes, and clothes to avoid mildew & ruin on the week-long return drive home
3.)  put away all belongings in a logical & memorable place
4.)  group tubs, bags, & gear according to where they should be placed in the Expedition for possible access or non-access for the 3,300-mile journey
 

To attempt Goal #1, I dressed in gray North Face zipoff pants, my heavy boots, a zipped-up black fleece jacket, and a camo baseball cap that hid my long hair from distant, curious onlookers that might bring unwanted distractions & delays to my day's objective.  Feeling alone & possibly vulnerable, I randomly caught myself at times mimicking mannish mannerisms & movements, hoping to convince onlookers that I was able to hold my own--whether or not they bought my masculine character.
 

Initiating Goal #2, I began to gather & spread various items, ranging from damp to drenched, on any & all available spaces that would possibly catch a draft of the Yukon wind blowing through Carmacks that morning.  Due to the limited sites that captured the Yukon sun & wind in the Sundowner's position, I was continually draping & redraping our first batch of saturated possessions to capitalize on sunlight & wind before swapping the thoroughly dried items with the next significant soggy set.
 

At some point, I realized that I was not the only being hard at work; I noticed locals working their fishing nets on the opposing bank of the Yukon River.

First Nation Families Attending to Their Fishing Nets Across the Yukon River
Carmacks, YT, Canada

While the welcomed & much appreciated summer sun dried our gear, it also forced me to shed the layers of my manly costume to make my vigorous task bearable.  Well aware that I would no longer possibly pass as the opposite sex, I continued my work in my camo hat, black tank top, gray pants, & Chacos...still trying to appear as valiant as possible.

It was during my employment of Goal #3 when Jake's dreaded prediction of trouble became a reality & paid me a visit.  As I hopped and balanced and maneuvered through the maze of my organized stacks & piles on the deck of the Sundowner, I detected my approaching visitor.  She was already 10 feet from boarding the Sundowner when I first saw her.  How did she get this close without me noticing?  Jake would not approve.





A Dilemma & Departure in Carmacks: Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip

Our last night on the Yukon River was sprinkled with squabbles about the approaching solo journey to & from Whitehorse.  Jake & I had opposing views about which one of us should catch the shuttle with Kanoe People back to Whitehorse and retrieve our Expedition & trailer to then drive the 112 road miles back to Carmacks.

I wanted to stay with the Sundowner, even though that meant I would be responsible for organizing all of our belongings (wet tarps & clothing, scattered toiletries, survival gear, bedding, kitchen & food supplies....) to fit into the Expedition for our 3,300-mile return drive home.  That daunting task was overshadowed by my abhorrent fear of--in my mind--the likely possibility that the Expedition would either A.) not start or B.) break down along the desolate drive back to Carmacks on the Klondike Highway (HWY 2).  Worst-Case-Scenario Girl envisioned the Expedition conking out halfway between Whitehorse & Carmacks and encountering a massive and aggressively destructive grizzly bear with an unquenchable curiosity for the shaking, mortified me trapped inside the easily penetrable shell where I prayerfully took refuge....  Or, perhaps an up-to-no-good wilderness-dwelling savage that preys on helplessly stranded Americans without a cell signal would materialize from the backcountry and drag me off into the bush where I would never be found but forever wander aimlessly after my abductor tired of my unceasing vociferations of anguish....  Without much acknowledgment of my worst case scenarios, Jake assured me that our Expedition with nearly 160,000 miles would start and get back to Carmacks devoid of problems.  I was not convinced.

Jake preferred for me not to stay in Carmacks alone with the boat & our gear.  Before our journey, we had read warnings to watch your gear and your back while camping near the Carmacks bridge area.  Locals also advised us not to leave our boat unattended, and for the past three days we felt like the center of attention for many in and around the Villiage of Carmacks.  I assured Jake that I could hold my own & our gear-loaded boat, especially with the Mossberg 500 and my KA-BAR Kukri Machete as my companions (that's a 12-gauge shot gun & tactical machete for those unschooled in weaponry like I was before this trip).  I had just survived nearly 3 weeks of the wild Yukon River; I wasn't going to let human beings threaten or impose afflictions upon me.  Still, Jake was not convinced.

I'm sure it wasn't that he thought I couldn't handle unwanted, pesky--and possibly harmful--visitors.  I just think he didn't want that experience for me (nor did I), but in my mind that was a situation I preferred to combat over a broken-down vehicle in the middle of nowhere--literally--with the inept ability to diagnose & repair anything much more than a flat tire, empty tank of gas, or dead battery.  I wanted to stay; the Sundowner and Carmacks promised familiarity and thus security in my mind.  With the impending 10:00 a.m. pickup time charging my anxiety, torturous what-ifs and the unknown fate of our Expedition and its return journey strangled my gumption.  Reasoning with Worst-Case-Scenario Girl & her extinguished common sense was hopeless, and Jake begrudgingly boarded the shuttle against his better judgment.  

Watching the white van with its canoe trailer in tow carry Jake away from me, I felt relieved, alone, and ashamed.  Explaining my relief is unnecessary.  I felt alone because I had not been farther than 50 yards from Jake since we left our home almost a month ago.  The ever-present option of communication ceased as the shuttle drove out of sight.  Contact would have to wait until his return.  Without a cell signal, I had no way of connecting with him, which meant no way of learning of his safe arrival to Whitehorse...no way of knowing if the Expedition started after sitting for almost 20 days...no way of knowing if he encountered obstacles on the Klondike Hwy...and no way of alerting him if I was in trouble.  I could not leave the boat to place a call to Sports North (where we had parked the Expedition) to get a message to Jake or to see if he had arrived.  It was just me and the Sundowner on the edge of Carmacks until Jake's return.  I was ashamed because I felt as though I had let Jake down in some way.  Not mustering the courage to follow his reasoning made me feel out of sorts and ungrateful.  Jake is my captain, my love, my friend, my protector.  Never has his instruction or directions misguided me.  This trip reaffirmed my life & safety to be foremost in his mind.  And, this is how I repay him?  By not trusting this decision? 

We guessed the round trip to be around 4 hours, but most of our previous estimated driving times on this trip seemed to take up to twice as long.  I was left to ponder his whereabouts & fortune while I prepared the Sundowner and our gear for the long drive that was still before us.