Alaska Travel Magazinenext

Does one say, "welcome aboard" a kayak? If so, that's what I mean, for the purpose of this series of articles is to, take you along on what could be called a "Trip of a Lifetime."

That's what the newspapers called our Mexico to Canada horse-pack sojourn. I want to sneak away with two, or more, such adventures in my lifetime. However, I don't want to appear greedy, so I have decided to share the fun and hardships, the worry and excitement, as they happen; sort of a "pool it" paddle adventure, commensurate with these days of energy shortages.

First off, mate, you will have to excuse me for mixing together nautical terms with a few giddy-ups and whoas. What we are saddling up for is not a vacation! It's work. Hard work, with a lot of problems to contend with.

Question: what sort of problems? Well, questions; they are the number one difficulty facing anyone trying to get off the beaten path for a while. Friends, relatives, and business acquaintances, all, take time to answer properly.

It's not that I mind answering questions, but at this writing, we are six days behind our scheduled departure date and I need an excuse as to, why.

It's embarrassing. I call up a friend to ask if he will board a horse while we are gone and get, "Hey" where are you calling from, Canada?"'

"No, Ed. we're home.

"What did you come back for?"

That's bad. Even worse is others that say, "Thank heavens, you haven't left. I was reading your; 1) tea leaves, 2) horoscope, 3) tarot cards, and have you thought about the possibility of; 1) you 2) Bernice 3) Barry Jr. 4) Bernadette 5) being attacked by; 1) grizzlies 2) appendicitis 3) piranhas 4) scurvy 5) cold feet? Don't you think that is an omen?" And then, the inevitable, "don't go."

The hardest question of all to answer is —"why?"

I wish I could come back with a snappy answer as mountain climbers put it —"Because it's there!" —but my best to date is, "Because I want to!"

Not very convincing. I could expound about wanting to travel the length of the Yukon River because it is (almost) the last major free-flowing body of water in America, or, how I want my children to experience "wilderness" before it's all gone. Yet, it is not necessarily the main reason for going. I might offer an answer about our family being the closest when sharing the pioneers' style of life together. True enough, but still not too convincing.

Actually, the real "why" dates back to my grade school days, when after learning how to read, I escaped from boring lessons by delving into adventure books in which boys of my approximate age were sailing ships, breaking horses, and scaling mountains, etc. One day my third grade teacher singled me out as a dreamer. "And, class, know that day dreamers never accomplish anything," she said sagely.

Of course, my teacher was at least partly right. Dreams rarely come true without a great deal of work. For example, preparing for a mere ten weeks on the Yukon has taken consistent effort for the past two years, and twelve hours a day for the past two months.

We actually made lists of our lists. Our repair kit weighs 26 pounds and contains over 100 items, purchased, if I remember correctly, from almost as many different stores. Then more questions: "How many servings in 18 pounds of powdered eggs?" And another: how to fit 1,000 items into three 17 1/2 feet, Folbots? Etc., etc."

Photography is making this trip possible, but where does one stow away, in watertight containers, six cameras, 14 lenses, 300 rolls of 35mm film, and 12,000 feet of movie film, sleeping bags, film, duffle, film, cooking pots, more film?

Then: "Dad," where can I store my picture of Danny" (Bernadette's special friend)?
"Nowhere! Got to have room for film, film, film!
"But Dad. . . "
Cut it out in an oval shape and I'll glue it over Sir Walter Raleigh on my tobacco can. " '
"But only if you promise to let me call him long distance from Fort Yukon."

Question: Does Fort Yukon have a telephone? I don't know. Maybe Al knows. For, the last month he has been compiling a log of information, garnered from every source imaginable. I believe be made notes on the behavior, of "Ursus horribillis," more commonly known, as a grizzly bear, from the libraries' copy of a Mark Trail comic strip.

"Sure, Bernadette," if you call collect.

After outfitting this expedition with boats, film, tents, film, sleeping bags, film, pots, film, she will be lucky if I can afford an airmail stamp. Does Fort Yukon have a post office?

I don't know what the total bill for this "vacation" will be. I dread to even estimate the cost' Bernice wants to know if we will have enough left in the 'money-poke' for our return trip home.

See what I meant about questions being my number one problems?

But all in all, I believe —as do the others —that this trip will be the most satisfying adventure of any such trek we ever undertook. But still, all of you out there wish us luck —we may be needing it!

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