Hard Lessons Learned on Yukon's Hart River

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Below is the first in a series of stories I will be blogging about.

For many years, during the winter months in Yukon I earned my keep as a trapper. When the weather warmed, I'd turn my hand to painting and make my living that way. I hope you enjoy these stories and my (mis) adventures. I have fond memories of the Hart River, and my experiences there.

The river and the broad forested valley, craggy mountains, and alpine ridges often make their way into the paintings I do today.

 
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 When I was a trapper in the Hart River, (thanks to Scott McGovern for this video)  I learned a hard lesson. I had about a dozen marten and wolverine traps in a valley, and after setting the traps and ensuring everything was in its proper place, I left to let time work the trapline.

     When I came back to check a few days later, the landscape had changed drastically. I wasn't lost, I was in the right place, but pressure had built in the creek running through the valley and flooded the ice above, turning the ground where my traps lay into a frozen lake.

    The ice was about two feet thick, and searching the area I could find nothing to help place my traps. As I stood looking over the ice, something protruding caught my eye. Going over to investigate, I found the frozen face of a wolverine looking out at me. The poor guy had been caught and then trapped in place as the creek overflowed and hardened. I couldn't leave him there, despite the gruelling work it entailed, I had to get him out. With the dog team tied up, I started cutting away at the ice. I left a wide berth around the wolverine, so I wouldn't damage him with my ax. It took a few hours and it was close to -40, but it was sunny - thank God! When I finished I had a massive ball of ice containing a dead wolverine. The ice itself weighed around 150 lbs, but with no other animals or traps to be retrieved, the only inconvenience lay in the size, not the weight.

     That ball of ice sat in my bathtub for close to a week before It thawed enough to even see a complete wolverine, let alone skin it. Today the wolverine pelt sits in the Trading Post in Dawson City, as part of its collection. It's a good reminder of the lesson learned that winter. When you think you have everything accounted for and figured out, mother nature will often correct you and you better be prepared to deal with that.