Monday, July 18, 2011

Arriving in the Village of Carmacks: Day 16 of the Yukon River Trip

The Carmacks Bridge on the Yukon River

As we slowed our approach to Carmacks, talk of maybe anchoring to a small island for the night echoed off of the river.  Having one last night on the Yukon River to ourselves before entering the village of Carmacks seemed appealing.  We were so ready to reach our destination yet not quite ready to accept our beloved trip's imminent end.  Uncertainties of what to expect and what to do once we passed under the bridge also fueled this talk.  We knew the boat launch was "past the bridge in swift water."  But how far past?  Would the current sweep us past the only public boat launch?  Would we be able to keep our boat in the water once we arrived?  Our truck and trailer were 200 miles up river, and we weren't exactly sure how we were going to get back to them.  As questions and water swirled all around the Sundowner, we decided to float into Carmacks.

Upon paddling under the first bridge of our 202-mile journey, the boat launch appeared to be directly past the bridge.  The adrenaline primed our muscles for one final fight against the Yukon's powerful current.  We pushed, pulled, grunted, and groaned our way through the swift waters and finally anchored the Sundowner for the last time on the Yukon River.  We tied her to a sturdy tree on the bank and made plans for a trip into town to buy food for a celebration meal.

The late hour and our hungry bellies prompted Jake to quickly make his way up the trail with a shotgun over his shoulder and begin the almost-mile hike into the village.  Sitting on the boat alone, I watched Jake walk farther away from me than he had in over two weeks.  Before anxiety had a chance to set in, Jake reappeared and called me to check out the walk.  The dirt road was bordered by thick brush and trees.  All was eerily quiet.  The trees shadowed the long dirt road, making the walk the darkest it had been on our entire trip.  The scene before us made it all too easy for a bear to pop out of the treeline without much notice.

Jake decided to climb the steep embankment up to the bridge and highway (that had yet to produce more than a car or two).  I returned to and climbed back on the boat and sat down in the cabin, while keeping one hand on a gun and both eyes glued to Jake as he disappeared on the road above me.  After a few minutes, I relaxed a bit and began to entertain myself with thoughts of the food and drink Jake would bring back with him.  Time passed.  He later returned empty-handed and said,  "I don't understand.  The sign said it closed at 10:00 p.m.; it wasn't even 10:00 when I arrived.  It's just now after ten.  Why would they close early?"

"Maybe there's a time change here," I suggested and went to dig out my phone to see if it could provide us with an answer--the iPhone always has an answer.  After powering on my phone, the time popped up as 3:12 a.m.  That can't be right, I thought.  I showed Jake, and that prompted him to search out his phone, only to find the same time displayed.  "Well, I don't have a signal, so maybe it's messed up; it hasn't been on in so long."  For once, we just couldn't accept what our trusty iPhones were telling us.

Jake finally offered, "My watch must be wrong; I've been wearing on the other hand.  I must have knocked the buttons somehow while rowing or sleeping."  Then, it all made sense.  Being 3:12 in the morning would explain why everything was closed in the little village of Carmacks.  How many days had his watch been off?  "Oh well, Ramen noodles again?"

"Sure…anything but pepperoni," I replied and got to work on digging out our pans to heat up water for our first meal on the banks of Carmacks.  We ate and crawled into our warm sleeping bags for a few hours of sleep while the soft rain misted around the Sundowner in the early morning hours.

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