Taku 2021 - 5: Wet Work
September 4 - 6


Photo Album

Mid-week, I'd fueled and prepped the Kathy M, bringing it to the outside berth of the boathouse. My mom and I took her gear and the 2x12 ramp down to the harbor at 9:30, stowing all but the ramp on the boat, then returned up the hill only to head down with my gear not long thereafter. Ezra beat us there and carted the ramp down to the boathouse before we got there with my gear and the dogs. I stowed everything, tied the board to the roof, and we were underway just after 11:00, right on schedule, Cailey up on the old foam boat bed she loves so much and Jenny between us on the floor. We sipped Pacificos as we sped down the channel, only encountering a little chop when we rounded Cooper, first from Sunny Cove and then from the direction of Davidson Creek, but it was calm on the river. The engine sputtered oddly a few times in front of Taku Point which made us worried about touching bottom, but there was no sign of mud in the wake. Oddly, it was near where the Ronquil had done the same thing a month ago. As we turned the corner above the point, we passed hundreds of seals perched just on the edge of a sandbar. There was a moment of confusion when we did touch bottom on the known sandbar along the grassy meadow below the slough, but the only problem was that we were puttering just a little too fast. With the engine raised as far as it would function, we passed over the top of it--waterfall to waterfall--without touching bottom again, arriving at the floats around 1:15. Then the fun started! We had a big load, with gear for the cabin, a week's food and supplies for my mom, my own gear, two large boxes of vermiculite, two bottles of propane, and a generator. While my mom waited (she is only beginning to put weight on her broken leg), I lugged it all to the top of the bank, then set up the ramp to retrieve my mother. Jia Jia had put this invention together at my mom's request and direction: a 14' 2x12 with 2x2 steps screwed in at just the right distance for a one-legged person to scoot up and longer pieces on either end to tie it in place. In this case, I only tied on the top, looping it around two trees to help keep it in place, and before I knew it she was up at the top. Just then it started raining after a lovely, bright overcast morning. While my mother crutched her way up to the cabin, I went ahead to open up, passing her just as I was heading down to Alder to pick up the 4-wheeler. While she lit a fire, I attached the trailer to the 4-wheeler and made two trips to fetch all the gear. By the time that was done and everything was inside, it was about 2:30, raining heavily, and I was well and truly exhausted. I'd been exhausted all week, and all the hauling all day had taken an added toll. Also, we hadn't had lunch, so the first thing we did was eat the havarti-cucumber sandwiches I'd packed along with oatmeal-raisin cookies my mom had made. Yum. We unpacked, organized, and had cocktails at 4:15; while there was much to do, I was in no shape to do more than chat and heat up some Indian curry for dinner with biscuits.


At 12:15 am, cozy on the foam bed in my room upstairs with Cailey beside me and the rain pattering on the roof, it dawned on my sleepy brain as I rolled over that we hadn't sent a SPOT okay message when we'd arrived, which was made all the more surprising by the fact that we'd had a long conversation about sending SPOT messages that afternoon! Fearing the worry of our family and an airplane showing up the next morning, I planted both SPOTs outside and then laid in bed for half an hour reading to make sure the messages were sent. It took me nearly an hour to get back to sleep after that, but I didn't feel badly rested when I rose around 7:30. We had oatmeal and peanut butter for breakfast and then tackled the water pump. It was inset in the dirt a little from the accumulation of organic matter over the years, so the first thing I did was excavate around it so the area was flattish. That didn't take long, so I fetched a jerry jug of gas, added some to the generator in case my mom wanted to use it, then filled the tank on the 4-wheeler which had run out of gas just as I finished hauling gear the day before. My mom drove down and found a piece of plywood which we decided to place under the water pump, which required me to excavate the whole area further so the plumbing would still align. This took a bit more work and I had to repeatedly clip roots and excavate to fit the plywood. And I had no reference for level ground, so when I did place the pump down, it was noticeably at an angle, leaning toward the mountain. After initially hooking it up, I took it apart and improved the angle, though it still tilts a little. I was able to find the pipe sealant for the coupling, but despaired of finding the plug for the bottom of the engine. I thought it was surely lost and my bad mood turned even worse. I wasn't in a great mood to begin with, a few mosquitoes were biting, and I despaired of success. Amazingly, my mom found the old and a replacement plug right away. I primed the tank and sat down to give starting it a go. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Of course, I'd made sure the fuel switch was positioned right above the word "On" and only after a number of pulls did I notice that there was an arrow next to "On" which pointed to the opposite side. Not helpful, guys. But it still wouldn't start, so I took a break. When I came back to it, I realized that the choke was also on the wrong side (the icons for choke are not intuitive to me). Anyway, she started up right away then without any of the sputtering we'd heard earlier in the summer. My mom climbed up to the back deck and saw that there was a severe kink in the hose just before it entered the tank; I pushed up some slack and she held it in place while the tank finished filling up. That was evidently the other reason we'd had trouble with water this summer. To our great pleasure, the tank did overflow and we had water once again. Such a joy!

After a short break and a snack, I headed out to work on the project close to my heart this year: clearing the blueberry (and other) bushes off the trail upriver. I've always avoided them both because I love blueberries and hate to offend them, and because they are low priority in terms of clearing trails, as they never get very large and can always be pushed through. But the idea of being able to walk without brushing through bushes is highly appealing and I decided to steel myself, with my mother's blessing. I started just below the cabin and cleared the trail all the way to the spruce forest this side of Debbie's Meadow. Most of the work was in the young forest where the trail turns toward the mountain from the river and curves upriver again, where blueberries once flourished and now hang on to life and produce a handful of berries at the edges of the trail. I spent most of that section on my knees, shuffling along and working on the base of the trail, then standing up to clip the edges, and then back down. In that way I found quite a few small spruce stumps and dug those up, so I think that section of the trail is virtually trip-proof now. It was back-breaking work, and hot in my waterproof raingear. But it looks amazing, and I can't wait to have the whole trail so pleasant. I worked at that until about 12:30, then headed back to make lunch and take a break. I had high hopes of berry picking, having observed what looked like an ample crop of nagoonberries in August, so after a little rest I suited up again and headed back out, this time with Cailey, pausing at the very beginning to clear the trail on the upriver side of the cabin where spruce boughs blocked the 4-wheeler route and the whole trail was overgrown in blueberries. I just love to be able to walk without getting my legs wet! I clipped here and there on the rest of the way up, somewhat dismayed by how much more work there is to do on it. And, although I found more berries than usual on the little meadow I've been maintaining near the property line, I was only able to pick a couple of cups total through all the usual picking areas. I'm not sure if they've been picked over or if my assessment was wrong. Poor Cailey wore herself out going ahead (toward the cabin) and then bounding back to me over and over again. She was soaked to the skin and I was also getting wet and weary. On the way back, I cleared a few feet of trail just downriver of the mountain hemlock, and dropped Cailey off before heading walked down the back trail where I ran into my mom who'd strolled down to the new bridge.

I made spaghetti for dinner and picked a lovely fresh salad of lettuce, beet greens, and swiss chard sprouts from the garden box, which were growing beautifully, everything three or four inches tall. I had nothing left in me at that point, so we watched some episodes of The Good Place which I'd put on my mother's computer and then went to bed.


The next morning I was up surprisingly early again. After breakfast I packed my backpack with supplies, suited up, and headed upriver in the pouring rain, leaving Cailey behind to rest and nap. I knew it wouldn't be a very fun Cailey walk. My first stop was Boundary Slough where I pounded the first no hunting sign firmly in the ground for the fall and bent some of the blue joint in front of it.

From there I tried to head upriver, but was cut off by the nearest slough which was greatly flooded by beaver activity. Even Boundary Slough was too large to cross in that area. I gave up and returned to working on the signs, replacing the one near the second USFS boundary marker and then heading to the slough without finding the third. I did replace the sign on the slough, which I was pleased about, and double backed in an attempt to find that missing post, unsuccessfully. From there I headed south in the meadow all the way to the other boundary. The meadow really was beautiful in fall colors: yellow irises, burgundy fireweed, golden goldenrod, rose-gray bluejoint seeds. I noted that there was still quite a bit of snow on the avalanche. I found the no hunting post I'd pushed in place earlier to be upright but without its sign, opposite what I expected. I found it nearby and resecured it and pounded the stake in, then failed to find the stake toward the river. Instead, I secured a new sign to a bare willow tree in the same area. My mom had been busy cleaning and organizing while I was out tramping and the cabin looked great. I changed clothes, as most of what I had on was wet, and made quesadillas for lunch before packing up and heading to the river. My mom took the 4-wheeler with a load of trash and gear to take to town and I headed out under drier skies with hints of blue about 1:30. I touched bottom over the bar, gently, but otherwise had a smooth and uneventful ride home.

Stunted spruces and irises in the meadow