This morning I heard the grouse drumming. All these signs of spring!
This drumming is the mating call of the male grouse. He produces it with his wings and it carries clearly through the forest.
When you live in the Yukon, the chances that you have heard a chainsaw are pretty big. It sounds a bit like that, as if someone is starting up their chainsaw deep in the forest.
This year it seems everything is a little late. There is still snow on the ground in the forest. Although spring is definitely here and on Monday I was still skiing on the lake behind the house, yesterday I went out looking for water again, one of my favourite activities in spring. I don’t live in Whitehorse, where there is always a bit of open water in the Yukon River.
In the late afternoon, with no wind, the sun feels hot, and the Mourning Cloak butterfly has been fluttering around the mud puddles. I set off to check a little creek in the forest here.
This butterfly is my personal spring indicator. Over the last 12 years I have kept records when it appears in my yard, which is as early as April 16 (often on that day) and as late as the end of April.
The snow is so watery, it is easy to walk through – with my rainboots, as in places it is still over a foot deep. Going uphill, the side hills are snow-free. Descending down to the creek, the snow is over the rim of my boots.
There is water! Lots of it. I have never seen such a flow in this creek.
As it turns out, it seems like more water than there actually is, because in most places it flows over the ice that is still in the bottom. This creek will flow in the summer, but sometimes dries up in the fall.
The balsam poplars smell delicious, the sun shining through the still leafless trees, the water rushing. I call this creek Elfin Creek, (only the most prominent landmarks have official names here).
Over the years I have spend many delightful hours here in magic, dreaming and playing. In the fall, I pick highbush cranberries here.
In the mountains, the bears are maybe waking up, but not here. Not yet. But the memory remains vivid of a previous visit when there was a bear.
Today, I follow the creek through the forest on the one snow-free bank, or wading through the water, climbing over trees, jumping across.
Ah, and there is the falls, in a place far from the trail.
The water here drops some six feet, and at the bottom is a little pool. I sit on an overhanging tree and let my feet cool in the icy water, listening to the water.
That’s when my thoughts go back to the bear.
I had heard some suspicious noises. BIG noises. I never take chances with noises like that, so I took my basket and went back to the trail, away from the noise.
What I had not thought of is that, even backing away from the noise, the trail that eventually leads home is maybe a few hundred yards away from the creek, but still alongside it.
And with not a care in the world, I suddenly saw Grizz on the same trail, directly ahead of me. He had left the scene too, but was obviously going around me the other way.
Faster than I could think (I do carry bear spray in bear season), the bear fled with incredible speed. It amazed me that he was not only a fast mover, but also a fast thinker. Before I could even make a move, he had already figured out that fleeing was the best option.
Now, in the pool, it doesn’t take long for my fingers and toes to be tingling red and I, too, am on the move again.
Going back by the way of the lake, from which the creek flows, where just yesterday we had skied, today there are puddles of water on the ice.
We call this lake Moose Skull Lake. But that is another story for another time.