Well, I am back in Fairbanks. I feel a little like Evil Knievel when he attempted to jump Snake River canyon. Regretfully, due to weather, I felt like the only safe thing for me to do is call off the project.
Three things led to my decision;
When I first landed I fished the river for four hours and never caught a fish. I had fished that river before and found an over-abundance of fish there, both grayling and dollies. I know the species and I know how to fish the river. Something was wrong. I continued to fish the river for three days, and still did not catch a fish. Next I tried ground squirrels they were not there either, I found one.
The edible greens were not green, everything was still brown, from the winter, no new growth.
The forecast was calling for a winter storm warning, 5-14 inches of new snow with 35 MPH winds.
The problems; I was counting on fish from mid-river, where I was, to carry me over the upper river and the continental divide. I was going to catch a surplus, smoke and dry them for food to sustain me till I found fish on the other side. The fish just had not reached the middle river yet. If there's no fish in mid river, there's no fish in the upper river. No fish, game over. Grayling over-winter in the lower river and all but a few Dollie Varden spend the winter in the ocean. In the spring both species migrate up the river to spawn.
You can't eat brown edible plants. Well, you can, they just don't taste good and they have little nutritional value. I did find and eat some freeze dried cranberries from last fall. They were sweet but not plentiful and were mostly seeds.
I was not really afraid of the weather, I had already spent the first night in blizzard like conditions. My concern was that with all the new snow, the rivers would all go up making my river crossings too unsafe.
My mistakes; It's important to analyze what went wrong so you can learn from it. My mistake if I made one was in timing. Either I was early or it was a late spring in the arctic. It's probably a little of both. None of the river guides I spoke to up there can remember such a late spring. Two or three weeks could have made a world of difference.
The solutions; I could have tried to get a report on the conditions of the river before I started. It's hard to do when you're one of the first people to go there in the spring, and it's remote.
In hind sight, I could have brought a weeks worth of freeze dry with me to hold me over till I figured things out. I think that would have just postponed my problems in this case.
If it had been a true survival situation, I could have headed down river till I found fish. Not an option for me here, I needed to go up river.
Also, there was a small herd of caribou just over the hill from me for the whole three days. In a true survival situation I could have shot one of them. In my situation I could not legally shoot one.
With some food I could have waited for the storms to blow over and the rivers to go down enough for me to cross safely.
You make the best decisions you can with the information you have.
I was able to keep warm and dry, all my gear worked like it should have. I was never in danger. I carefully weighed all my options and made a decision to end it before it became dangerous.
To be sure, this was an ambitious thing to try. My confidence, perseverance and ingenuity have carried me through lots of exciting adventures. To me it's boring to do things I already know I can do. I have already camped with all the gear, freeze dried food and rafts etc. Without the challenge it's not exciting or interesting to me. Because I am always challenging myself with new things, I'm bound to fail at some of them. Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished from the easy chair.
There were lots of things I wanted to show you on this trip;
Carving eating utensils and bowls from sheep horn and antler.
A multitude of traps and snares, both primitive and using more modern materials.
Primitive fishing techniques, making fish hooks and nets and traps.
Ways to cook things that you may not have thought of.
I'm not one to pretend and do these things in my back yard, the setting is everything. It's my hope that I can do all these things and more on future trips.
In the next couple of days, there will be video from the trip on my blog if you'd like to see it.
Thank you to my supporters here.