Friday, August 21, 2009


I now step / into the wild
      Five miles west of the Sinuk River bridge, the Teller Road reaches the top of a steep grade where it crests the first set of bluffs west of the Sinuk River.  A mile to the north of the road at this point, a white bus is starkly visible against open tundra. There is just something about an abandoned bus in the wilderness. A wilderness bus is like Lazarus's spaceship in the original Star Trek-- one expects one's own deranged alter-ego to appear in a burst of trombones from out of the time portal. 
     This particular bus marks the beginning of a well-known four-wheeler trail that follows bluffs and swamps for 11 miles all the way to Glacial Lake.  After about 2 or 3 miles north down the trail (walking from the Teller Road) you reach a set of  marble scarps facing southeast over the Sinuk like dormer windows, a line of orange, pink, and green cliffs that appear to bear some adequate 90 ft. lines in a few places.  Andy and I had reached this place in July, suffering and hallucinating in the 19th hour of epic staggering through soaking rain south on the four-wheeler trail from the inner brushes of Glacial Lake down the four-wheeler trail (soon to be picked up at 2 in the morning on the lonely Teller Road by an eastbound Kutuk.)  
    On Sunday, I returned to this place, alone for want of a partner. A beautiful plateau presented itself from out of July's memory, with a squat, clump of not-s0-bad greenschist boulders leading over to the dormer window marble scarps (the name-assigning lobe of the brain already referring to them as the Supertramp buttresses in honor of the bus.)  I bouldered a bit on the schist for a while,  rubbed my skin cells all over the rock, and urinated under a .10b overhang in a great, single patch of urine onto the tundra.  I proceeded along to the marble cliffs and was excited to find them unusually copious.  I put my shotgun down on a promontory and scampered along the cliffs heading northeast.
    Alas, the bouldering was never to be that day.  As I was shoeing up, a family of 4 aklat(ch) hoved into view, a mother and 3 juveniles, a veritable herd.  Despite previsualizations all morning not to do so, I freaked out, and began to claw my way raggedly downwind along the face of the cliffs, making a few panicked forays up onto class 5 slabs in search of a certain ledge where a human could go but an aklaq couldn't.  A pitiful display of fear witnessed only by a blog, of all things....  As I turned the corner of one of the splendid marble buttresses, three more large animals popped up directly in front of me, 20 ft. away:   a family of Golden Eagles!  My heartbeat shot up even further!   They were extremely well-mannered, as Eagles usually are, and didn't even flinch as I soloed obnoxiously above their nest, dribbling flecks of Cretaceous marble down.  As well were the aklat:  I continued to hide in my cliffs, poking my head up now and then, pretending to be a frightenened mouse and climbing around on rock that feels more like limestone, but when the mother aklaq reached the greenschist boulders and smelled the pee, run get out of here she yelled to the children, and they took off tearing through the willows in the opposite direction. I was left feeling vaguely let down, even persecuted.  Were humans really so foul?

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