Monday, September 15, 2008

Wolves in the Tundra

The day started warm, with a cool breeze blowing west from the Bering Sea, swifty enough for the mosquitoes and keggerpayagaqs (gnats, aka no-see-ums) from milling around our blood filled epidermi (aka skin). Perfect weather for berry picking. My mom, Donna, Masualuk (aka Musty) and I headed out in Musty's 16 foot skiff towards Ciuqaqlliq in hopes of filling up our empty berry buckets with puyuuraaqs (wild, sweet raspberries). There were many water fowl lazing about and resting along the quick swelling and flowing waters of the Kugkaktlik River of Kipnuk. I saw all types of ducks, fatty Canadian geese, Cranes and so many different kinds of sea birds along the shorelines of the waterways of that area. It was early enough that not too many people had ventured off into the wild to disturb these winged creatures. It was peaceful and the hum of the outboard motor seemed like it was a part of the peace and not a disturbance to the quiet. The day was starting out nice, the sun almost half way up the sky and not shining too brightly yet. A few random clouds splashing in the big, blue, tundra sky with a promise of another beautiful day in Yukon Delta Alaska. We made our first stop in a grassy area and as soon as we stepped foot off the boat, we were stepping on huge, red, juicy puyuuuraaqs. I found that the grassier the area, the bigger the berries were. Every where we stepped, there'd be a vaster area of the cluster of these yummy berries.

We filled our buckets about half way up and finally decided we picked most from that patch about noon and headed on towards Musty's boat. We had a lunch of dried, salty, smoked King Salmon with freshly made akuutaq (cloud berries) and macutaqs (dried dolly varden) and a nice cup of percolated coffee better tasting and not as acid-y as the stuff served at Starbucks. I'll take a cup of that coffee any day! I also munched on Ritz crackers and a granola bar to round out my nutrition intake for the noon day meal.
We headed off to another part of the river and by then, I thought about what people had been talking about lately in Kipnuk. Seemed there had been sighting of wolves in the areas where the berry camps were situated. Musty ventured off the west side of where the boat was parked and Mom, Donna and I went the opposite way. We were on ground for less then 10 minutes and I happened to look towards the horizon and saw 3 - four legged creatures in the distance loping away. I yelled "Qimugtet!"(DOGS!)" while turning toward the boat. Mom and Donna were close enough to hear me and ran towards the boat too. In our "tundra" minds, that would only mean one thing! We scrambled on into the boat and could still see Musty looking around into the grassy shores of the river, oblivious of our alarm. Donna yelled out his name "MASUALUUK!" but the wind blew her yell the opposite way and there was Musty still searching for the yummy berries with no indication at all of our startled selves. "MASUALUUK!", the second time and he turned around and started towards us. When he got close enough to earshot, we told him there were "dog-like" creatures inland. He grabbed his birdshot and his 12 gauge rifle and ambled on up inland to check out our commotion. He walked a few feet towards the "knotty" hill area in front of us and not too long after, we heard a shot go off. We could see him from where we were, but couldn't really see what was going on. Another shot went off, and he disappeared in the knolls. Finally, we could see him coming back towards the river we were on and he when he got back, he kind of chuckled, "Those things you thought were dogs were a pack of foxes, there's a den near the lake in front of us" --- what a sigh of relief that was for me~~, whew!
We stopped a couple of more times, the next stop, we saw moose tracks along the grass, which put us on a "bigger" guard of our surroundings and after that, I think our motivation of berry picking was completely gone.

No comments: