July 20 It’s a month after solstice and I’m a bit below the Arctic Circle. Although the sun goes below the horizon now, there is still 24 hours of light. I launch at 2:30 AM before the wind comes up.
An animal is walking along the edge of the high river bluff. A lynx! He’s hunting, so focused he doesn’t notice me. Long-legged, long ear tufts, spotted fur and a stubby tail with a black tip, he’s a striking animal. I try to get a good photo but it is difficult taking animal photos from a moving boat.
Downriver I watch a turning fish wheel for a while, hoping to see it scoop a fish out of the water, but it doesn’t make a catch while I’m watching. After I’ve floated another half mile a small plane buzzes upriver, circles once then sets down on the gravel bar next to the fish wheel. Two tiny figures walk over to retrieve salmon from the fish box, but it’s too far to see them carrying anything. The plane explains the streamers that have been fluttering near fish wheels. People are checking distant fish wheels by plane.
In many places the riverbanks are eroding rapidly. I float past a few feet away, smelling melting permafrost and the decaying black soil of ancient vegetation, looking for mammoth tusks. My heart jumps: is that a tusk, right there, sticking out of the bank? No, it’s just small tree that fell thousands of years ago, a fossil of a different kind.
When I pull my kayak (it’s an Aire Outitter I) up on the riverbank for lunch I smell the strong odor of beaver castor. As I build a cooking fire a beaver repeatedly swims past and slaps his tail. Beavers must find this entertaining in the same way a dog enjoys barking at the mailman.
The wind rises until at 2PM I decide call it a day. I try to find a strategic spot that will be shaded from the sun and protected from the heavy wind gusts and set up my camp downwind of, and shaded by, some willows. Out in the sun I set up my little solar chargers.
Today I made 35 “crow miles,” my biggest day so far this trip.