Monthly Archives: October 2013

I have added a brief footnote to the recent post, now titled A Study in Contrasts.

I have also softened the imagery of my moose hunt, as my slang reference to the moose’s possible demise was troubling me.

The physical reality of killing another creature — which of course is the intended end result of good hunting — is troubling me lately, and I was trying not to mince words, and perhaps also trying a little too hard to shake people up.   I will try to be a little less off-the-cuff.

This blog world is a strange one and if I offended anyone I apologize.  Not my intent.

“And rightly comprehended, the theme of the writing would be constant: a sustained effort to demolish the cliché; to understand, and then to say, as well as we can, what we feel to be true.”
— John Haines

Amazing contrasts  Sad thing is, they stop being striking as a person gets along in their life.  Used to be, coming out of the woods, even into the relative calm of Ely Minnesota, even from a relatively short outing like a Lynx Track 7-day trip, I would feel as if I had been transported into a different dimension. Everything was moving too fast, everyone was talking too fast, it all made very little sense for a day or two.

Now — scary as it is for me to admit, sitting in the Edmonton International (YEG) departure lounge, soon to board a Delta smoker for a three- hour flight to MSP, 600 miles an hour at 36 thousand feet, with a hundred and fifty strangers — this all seems quite normal.

Even though a week ago today, I was sitting alone on a taiga rock hilltop, trying my best to sound like a cow moose, so that I could lure a 700-pound bull moose in close and — very reluctantly, these days, but you gotta eat what grows around you and I have not a single doubt on that point — shoot him dead..

Which I did not, because Bullwinkle never appeared, but which I certainly would have, given a chance.

Never is the transition from off-the-grid to on-the-grid more apparent than in these days of late autumn, when the winter cold and dark are closing in on the Hoarfrost homestead, and our 6 80-watt solar panels are all but useless for about the next three months. (Those pie-in-the-skyers who would power the average upper-middle class North American home on solar and wind power alone, never mind manufacture any of our tools or toys without burning fossil fuels, just ought to try it in November, at, say, the latitude of Chicago or Toronto.)

Here, ensconced among the 1% or at least the 10%*  (which, lest we forget, includes everybody reading this blog, or so I would wager) light bulbs burn sixty or a hundred watts each and the Mark’s Work Wearhouse in Camrose Alberta is selling winter jackets with electric heating wires embedded in the fabric.  Electric clothing.  As if we didn’t have enough gizmos sucking up enough electricity every day already, now they would like us to plug our coats in at the end of the day.  Sheesh.

Scary thing, though, is that none of it really fizzes on me any more, as they say in Canada.  Meaning these contrasts, where clothes tumble dry in electric heat, where phones charge and thermostats do their thing and rubber-tired monsters hurtle in all directions — all as contrasted to that 30-year-old burn on the edge of McLeod Bay, that utter silence, that ancient outcrop,  that 600 or more miles northeast of me on that sunny cold day a week ago, surely the most remote remaining portion of the North American mainland.

I step in and out of two worlds.  Depend on the one to get by in the other.

And — I hope — still recognize, deep down, the vice versa.

Depend on the other to get by at all.

*December 7, 2006 A new study on The World Distribution of Household Wealth by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University was launched earlier this week. The study shows the richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth. The most comprehensive study of personal wealth ever undertaken also reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. In contrast, the bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth. The research finds that assets of US$2,200 per adult placed a household in the top half of the world wealth distribution in the year 2000. To be among the richest 10% of adults in the world required US $61,000 in total assets, and US $500,000 in total assets was needed to belong to the richest 1%, a group which — with 37 million members worldwide — is far from an exclusive club.

6 October, Hoarfrost River.  Gray and mild, more drizzle.  + 4 degrees C.  

Long time, no write.  If there is truth in the saying that a busy pilot is a happy pilot, I must be just about ready to burst into a fit of wild ecstasy now.  The month of September passed in a blur of flying work.  Luckily, for that work, it was one of the mildest Septembers in recent memory, because floatplane flying is not much fun at temperatures when water does not want to remain in a liquid state.  I had a solid reminder of that the other morning, when I slipped on the frozen float deck and smacked my cheekbone so hard into the wing strut that when I came to, I inspected the strut for damage.  Luckily it was the Husky, because the Bush Hawk does not have wing struts and I would likely have added a frigid swim to the morning’s festivities.  So now I am sporting a shiner which says “float season is almost over.”

At last that long round of work is winding down and I can break out of the routine of gazing at the weather charts over morning coffee, and plotting what might be possible, and tying down the plane in the last light of day.   Moose hunting has been sporadic, and so far unproductive, but there is a young muskox bull hung in the cache and we have laid eyes on two moose so far, east of home.  No shots fired.     

Almost all of my autumn flying has been to the tundra north and east of home these past weeks, and much of it has focussed on caribou.  Native hunters looking for caribou, biologists trying to develop new techniques of photographing and counting them, and far-flung solo forays in the Husky to retrieve radio-tracking collars which have “gone stationary,” in the parlance of the researchers.  This translates to “the caribou wearing that collar is now deceased” about 99% of the time, and “collar prematurely popped off”  every once in a great while.  (The collars have a clasp which is somehow programmed to take a burst of energy from the battery and pop open at a certain date.)  These dropped collars are still sending a VHF signal, which can be picked up from the plane a few miles back, and their last location is still known, so it is usually easy to land and walk and find them, and bring them back to town for overhaul and refurbishment.  Evidently sending a small plane 200 miles out from base to collect a few dropped collars is well worth the cost, because the requests to do so keep coming in.  Good work if you can get it.  A small nimble plane, no passengers, no big loads, nobody on a tight schedule or in a rush for the work to get done.  For a bush pilot, life does not get much better than that combination.  

Surprised yesterday to see four snowy owls in the space of about an hour of flying northeast of Artillery Lake.  That area is familiar enough to me, and I have flown over it, low and slow, frequently enough in the past 26 years, to say that this is either a bizarre coincidence or a real boom in owl numbers.   I suspect the latter.  

Yesterday I came up on one of those owls from behind, with the Husky configured in full-flap slow-flight mode.  He (or she) was striding through the cold air with powerful wing beats, distinctive from the flight of an eagle or a falcon.  I have no doubt he was getting skittish as the plane approached from his 4 o’clock high.  As only an owl can, he turned his head completely around in flight, to fix that amazing owl stare right at the plane.   Magical birds.  An unforgettable sight.  A moment worth trying to share, at least within the paltry boundaries of words.