Monday, July 25, 2011 (Day 55) Fifth and final day of our 40 Mile River/Yukon canoe trip. The town of Eagle looms off the bow of the canoe, and we’ve already passed a Customs sign that states we need to check in at their office just downriver and on the left. We arrived to a second sign that told us we were there. It was a pretty nice looking building but just an auto phone to check in.
Now we were faced with the potentially daunting process of getting a ride back to the car – some 50 miles of tough road away, so we could load up the canoe and get back to our campsite at Walker Fork. The map said 3 landing areas in Eagle – we paddled to the one closest to town. They really weren’t set up for canoes – it was a fishing boat launch area, but we got ourselves in – though it was a bit muddy. On a 25’ cabin cruiser just to the left of the ramp sat a young woman in full rain gear – she smiled and greeted us warmly. Ric approached, introducing himself and asked if she might know anyone who might be interested in getting paid a few dollars to take him back to the car at the 40 Mile River Wayside. She said her husband would be back in a few minutes and he might know. Dean and Pam Jackson were unloading their fish for the day – Linda and Ric were pretty impressed.
We struck a fair deal for the Jackson’s to give Ric a ride back to the car. Leaving town we stopped to get gas from “Beau”, who it turns out it the Mayor of Eagle! Beau was in Maine for awhile, but it “rained too much and there were too many bugs.” Seems a lot like Alaska to us!
Along the way to the car we saw many Caribou and a couple of Moose. Dean had a lever action 30/30 on the console beside him – it seems that there was a problem silver tip Grizzly around 6 miles out of Eagle or so and he wanted to be ready in case we saw it.
Pam managed a restaurant before the flood/ice break of ’09 wiped them out – she then worked with the FEMA folks for awhile to help the town get back on it’s feet. Later the following summer a series of large landslides took out several sections of the Taylor Highway – the only road into Eagle.
A somewhat related tragedy which demonstrates the danger quotient of this area of road was when a border patrol officer named Charles Collins, who the Jacksons knew, was killed when his car went of the road in mid July, 2010– his body wasn’t recovered for over a month when it was found in Eagle – 180 river miles from where he went off the road. Local lore points to that as an example of how much he loved Eagle.
Much of the tourism has dried up due to all the ice floe damage and road landslides, so the Jackson’s fish and work on rehabbing their home during the summer, cut wood and hunt during the fall and trap in the winter. They have been in Eagle for 5 years and are old hands at fishing which was Dean’s work when he lived in Michigan and fished Lake Superior. They love the solitude and raw beauty that make Alaska what it is. When we got back to the car, the tire had air, it started right up and we booked back the hour and a half ride – me to beat the rain as Linda was waiting with the canoe, and them to get their nets out of the water by 6 PM which was the time fishing closed on their section of the Yukon.
The following 2 days were spent drying stuff out and organizing camping gear, maintaining equipment and planning the next leg. Now – on to Tok for resupply, laundry, propane, etc. Then Fairbanks and the Dalton Highway!