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.

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

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