In the Yukon it is quickly becoming the time of year where snow starts crawling down from the mountain tops, Fall skips town like a philandering bastard, the thermometer starts taunting you with negative numbers, you wake up in the morning to find the ground crunchy with frost and a thin layer of ice on your vehicle, your breath appears in the air, you have to don your long johns at all times, the shelves of Crappy Tire fill with inflatable snowmen, and trying to take a few photos along the Yukon River at sunrise is liable to leave you with frostbite on the tips of your shutter pressers.
Today I’m going to share a wilderness survival tip that you can bet they didn’t teach you in Boy Scouts.
In the woods nothing keeps you warmer, happier, and feeling more alive than Bushmoka. Although it may sound like something your Yiddish grandmother wears, Bushmoka is second only to whiskey as the holiest of holy hunting camp drinks.
How To Make Bushmoka
- Start a campfire if you can. If you can’t, do what I do and use Zip.
- Fill a coffeepot with water from the nearest creek. Better yet, send a rugged mountain man to do it for you.
- Put the coffeepot on the most roaring part of the campfire. If you have a grate on top of the fire, great. If not nestle the pot in a flat flaming spot.
- Wait for the water to boil. Depending how good of a fire you built in Step 1 this can take anywhere from 5-30 minutes.
- Take the boiling pot off the fire. Unless you have evolved a burn-proof coating on your hands make sure to wear gloves.
- Forget your inner coffee snob and add whatever coffee grounds you happen to have. If you like your coffee with a kick use at least 4 big spoonfuls. If you don’t have a good relationship with caffeine use less.
- Let it all brew together for 3-4 minutes.
- Slowly add a cup of cold creek water to your pot. This will make all the grounds sink to the bottom so you don’t end up with a mouthful of coffee grit.
- Pour the fresh pot of coffee into individual mugs. Better yet if the individual mugs are labeled with fun names.
- Stir in hot chocolate powder to taste.
Warning: Bushmoka is extremely addictive. Drink with caution.
Today while at a coffee shop I came upon a photography book called Down Home: A Journey Into Rural Canada. I flipped through it haphazardly, expecting to find the usual Canadian postcard landscapes, and instead found something I couldn’t put down until the closing coffee bar staff pried it out of my hands.
Canadian photographer William DeKay spent 18 months in 1993-1994 travelling 80,000km across his home country in a camper exploring the lives of people who live in the expansive rural areas. He partied with Mounties, mourned with the Inuit, participated in sweat-lodge ceremonies, checked lobster traps and hunted whales with fishermen, dogsledded with trappers, spelunked with gold miners, herded with cowboys, and basically photographed & talked to anyone across the country who was willing to share some time with him.
I don’t know if I’d be getting overly sentimental about my home and native land to compare it to classics like Robert Frank’s The Americans or John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley, but in any case DeKay’s portraits of the people living in the little corners of this giant land impressed the pants right off me. Did I mention Neil Young wrote the forward?
As far as my inter-sleuthing can determine, the book is out of print so make sure to keep an eye out for it at used bookstores and coffeeshops if you’re into photography, photojournalism, and especially if you have any connection with rural Canada. I’ve included a few photos from the book I managed to find on the Interweb and you can find more information about William DeKay on the National Geographic website here.
On a cold, windswept beach in Meteghan, Nova Scotia, members of La Baie en Joie dance troupe practice a drama about a fisherman lost at sea and his grieving widow. – William DeKay, Down Home: A Journey Into Rural Canada
First-grader Rachel ponders her math assignment in the one-room Waterton Hutterite colony school in Pincher Creek, Alberta. The children have two instructors: a colony member who teaches them in the German dialect their parents speak at home and an English-speaking non-Hutterite, certified by the province. At age six, Rachel is just beginning to learn English. – William DeKay, Down Home: A Journey Into Rural Canada
Wind dries both laundry and cod for Howard Hinks of Lourdes, Newfoundland. The fish constitutes a fair bit of his winter food supply. The steady decline of the fishing industry over many years has devastated Canada’s easternmost province. Over coffee in Hinks’s kitchen, a neighbor became tearful as he talked about his children having had to move away and about the grandchildren he never sees. All over Canada, I ran into homesick, transplanted Newfoundlanders. – William DeKay, Down Home: A Journey Into Rural Canada
Although I stayed away from larger cities, I couldn’t resist Thunder Bay and its Big Shiver, an annual event during February’s Northern Lights Winter Festival. About 50 people took the plunge into the McIntyre River of northwestern Ontario, whose waters registered 33°F (.5 °C). The gathering captured my impression of Canada’s sense of humor and spirit and the creativity of rural people as they make their own fun. – William DeKay, Down Home: A Journey Into Rural Canada
Carpenter Robert McLean of Eddies Cove West in Newfoundland dashed to his hat collection when I asked if I could take his photograph. He chose this spot and stance. On my journey hundreds of families spontaneously invited me into their homes. They fed me, showed me their photo albums, shared secrets and quizzed me about their countrymen. Many said I was living their dream. – William DeKay, Down Home: A Journey Into Rural Canada
Rusting antique farm machinery is a staple of the prairie landscape, but Saskatchewan old-timer Wilf Stamm wouldn’t let that happen on his spread. That very morning as Stamm ventured forth with his paint buckets, his son chided him for spending time on old junk. Imagine how vindicated Stamm felt toward sunset when I stopped and wanted to make photographs. He told me, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.” – William DeKay, Down Home: A Journey Into Rural Canada
His shift over, Réal Villeneuve stands outside an entrance to the Silidor gold mine in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. A few minutes earlier, 1,200 feet (366 meters) below ground, the temperature had been 45°F (7°C). On the surface it was minus 40°F (minus 40°C). Traveling and living in my camper during one of the coldest winters on record taught me a lot about basic survival. I could not be carefree about where to stop for the night, because it had to be someplace I could plug in and find water. – William DeKay, Down Home: A Journey Into Rural Canada
Welcome to Chez Porcupine, a spike camp made by the ever crafty Yukon Stone Outfitter crew somewhere along a trail in the Pelly Mountains next to (you guessed it) Porcupine Creek.
Mandatory Morning Snuggles
The Breakfast Club
The Commute To Work
The Guest Room
The Laundry Room
The Ladies Sanctuary
The Shower Room
The Makeout Room
The Music Room
The Night Club
Some of you have expressed the desire to see images of rugged & handsome mountain men (yes, I’m talking about you Pratt). Hopefully the following photos will satisfy that ogling desire.
In this post you’re going to meet the crew of Yukon Stone Outfitters, who are some of the most hearty, handy, and competent folks I know. Quite a few of them have been spending time out in the mountains since the moment they were conceived in their parents’ bedrolls, and as such they possess the sort of skills that knock my clumsy self right off its feet.
This is Mac. He’s what makes Yukon Stone happen. He’s good at wearing any set of shoes he’s handed – hunting guide, pilot, outfitter, bossman. Really, he’s just the whole shebang.
This is JC. And by JC I mean Jamie Connors, not Jesus Christ. I’ve been told Jamie is to hunting guides what Brinjamin Porter is to bass players. For anyone who that comparison sounds like gibberish to, it means he’s so talented it hurts and if you ever go hunting you’d be fortunate to have him guiding you.
This is Skyler. He’s perhaps the most stylish hunting guide you’ll ever meet and camp’s resident entertainer. If you keep an eye out in upcoming posts you might meet his trusty companion Bucksnort.
Depending who you talk to, this is Jody, JP, Cookie, Old Peck, or Miss Quincy. Whatever you want to call her, she is without a doubt the best straight up cook I’ve ever met. Seriously, how many people do you know who can bake bread, buns, cookies, granola bars, date nut loaf, and black forest cake all in one afternoon over one little mother effing campfire? I can’t even do that with a new fangled electric oven.
This is Clayton. He can most often be found snuggling with his greatest love, the chainsaw. He also climbs a mean tree. He is the camp’s wrangler, which means he has to do things that would make me curl up in the fetal position. For example, go out before anyone else is awake into the sort of darkness that houses bears & witches & werewolves and find 20 horses who could potentially be anywhere in the whole mountain range.
These are a few of the Yukon Stone horses. Without them mountain life would be miserable because you’d have to traipse through rivers and mud bogs yourself and pack more pounds on your back than is humanly possible.
This is Arrow (first photo) and Pelly (second photo). They are quite possibly the happiest canines I’ve ever met. I guess I would be too if I was a dog whose life revolved around eating lots of meat, having free run of an entire mountain range, lounging by the campfire, and sleeping in my best human friend’s bedroll.
One Final Photo
To tide you all over until I finish sorting through the truckloads of photos I took while out in the mountains, here are 5 things I like less than being in a plane crash.
A plane crash is over quickly. Shivering all night in a pile of frosty bedrolls is not.
Although pink silk long johns may feel like the sexiest thing in the world when you’re in the mountains, they actually make you look like a plastic asexual creature. I would rather be in a plane crash than be a plastic asexual creature.
Having Nothing to Read in the Outhouse but Playgirl
Having nothing to read in the outhouse but a rogue Playgirl is funny the first few times, but after awhile a plane crash seems preferable to spending another moment with Vincenzo and his centerfold of hair pants or the 2 blond twins Doug & Doyle who like to give each other piggy backs on the beach in their matching speedos.
Trailing Horses in the Rain, Sleet, and Snow
I have ridden horses so few times in my life that even on a good day I feel certain I will never walk again and that I have probably also been sterilized. Perhaps with this in mind you can understand why I would rather be in a quick little plane crash than go on an 8 hour, 8 horse ride over 3 mountain passes in the rain, sleet, and snow. In this photo you can see Mac and JP taking advantage of the glorious weather to re-pack a horse.
Falling off a Horse
Who knew tumbling off a horse could hurt worse than a plane crash? This deadly looking double war wound is from the time I showed off my graceful riding skills by being slow-motion knocked off my horse by a tree.
My badass rating has increased exponentially. That’s because I’ve joined the ranks of statistical anomalies who have not only been in a plane crash, but who have walked out completely fine.
As you phlog followers may already know, I’ve been working in the Yukon as an expediter for a hunting outfit. This means I stay in town and get my errand on while the rest of the crew gets their bush on way out in the mountains. Last week I received a satellite phone call from the depths of those mountains saying I’d better pack a set of my warmest clothes and hurry my ass to the airport because I was coming for a visit.
It was a gorgeous morning to lose my bush plane virginity. As we flew up into the sunrise and back down again I was too busy snapping photos to notice the pilot and my boss Mac were busy tightening their seat belts and bracing for the impact of skidding the length of the frosty airstrip and flipping right off the bank at the end of it. I guess ol’ Fortuna was in a good mood that day because the only thing that was destroyed in our spectacular entrance was the plane.
Shiny happy takeoff. If you read between the lines of light you may notice Mac smiling about all the reasons he thinks it would be funny to neglect telling me his bush pilot super senses know we’re going to crash.
Sunrise over Whitehorse.
Sunrise over mountains.
Another photo from an aerial sunrise binge.
Descending for landing … Or so I thought.
This is what the inside of a 206 plane looks like after it’s flipped off a bank at the end of an airstrip.
This is what the outside of a 206 plane looks like after it’s flipped off a bank at the end of an airstrip.
JP (on the left) smiling out of what I assume is gladness to find us alive & well. I think she may have fared the worst in the crash being the one who had to witness it and sprint like a maniac down the airstrip in her rubber boots not knowing what she was going to find at the other end.
The belly of the very broken beast.
Another view, because really, how often do you have the opportunity to show off photos of a plane crash you walked away from?
The mangled fuselage, because really, how often do you have the opportunity to use those two words together?
Although some people could make a case for cruising around with a giant set of mountain sheep horns riding shotgun in your truck, my favorite part of my job as Yukon hunting outfit expediter is the days I get to hang out at the base camp cabin at Lapie Lake. It’s even better if it’s the beginning of fall, and even better still if it’s sunshowering.
Lapie Lake By Sunshower Light
The flaming lakefront.
Post Sunshower Sunset
A great deal of my Yukon driving time is spent on the Canol Road, which is short for Canadian Oil and is a road built during WWII in conjunction with a pipeline from Norman Wells, NWT to Whitehorse. Although the stretch I frequent is only 230km on paper (between Johnson’s Crossing on the Alaska Highway and Ross River), it is a seemingly never-ending drive even on the best of days due to the winding dirt nature on the road.
In any case, fall is just starting to rear its flaming head on the Canol Road. I’ve chronicled my love affair with autumn in the past so I don’t need to tell you again that it’s the absolute love of my seasonal life.