By Janelle Eklund
Since we were finishing up the work at Bremner sooner than expected we debated on whether to leave today or tomorrow. The helicopter pilot was coming in to fly us around and finish the surveys from the air. It was hard to tell what the weather was going to do. It vacillated between rain and sun all day.
The pilot arrived and flew us through the rest of the valley while Mary dictated vegetation surveys to me once again. We landed in an area dubbed “The Maze” by Anne, the Archaeologist. This was a unique mining area down the valley from the main mining camp. These hard core miners handpicked rocks to make their ‘sluice boxes’. They piled these rocks neatly on top of each other in lines covering a large area truly forming a maze. It’s amazing what gold fever does to some people. Mary recorded vegetation in this area and I collected samples of juniper for her. We ate lunch and decided to leave today since we finished the work and not knowing what the weather would do. The pilot seemed happy about that - he could get home earlier. We had the pilot drop us off at the airstrip so we could walk the mile back to camp and finish the last of the surveys. Along the way we paused at a beautiful spot near the creek. Short waterfalls cascaded over a rocky bottom and through a lush green meadow.
We flew to May Creek in the helicopter and the pilot radioed for us to be picked up by Wrangell Mt. Air and flown to Chitina. As we swung into the Chitina Valley the story of the weather unfolded before us. Storm clouds swept across the mountains to the north. Chatter between aircraft told of lightning and thunder. The sun still spread its rays over the Chitina and it was very pleasant at May Creek airstrip. We waited a half hour or so for our flight to Chitina. After taking off we had somewhat of a bumpy ride flying on the edge of the storm which was playing hide and seek with the sun. The pilot handled it amazingly well. What could have been a hair raising landing was as smooth as could be.
We were a little sad to say goodbye to special places and special times. We have our memories, our journals, and our pictures. And all we have to do is look out our windows and see into and beyond the peaks that shine before us. That’s the real gold.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.