Over the past few days, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Eagle and boat seven miles down the Yukon River to visit with Matt Hall’s parents, Wayne and Scarlett, in their beautiful, remote home. Wayne and Scarlett live a truly subsistence lifestyle. Their property can only be accessed by bush plane (there is a large gravel bar near their house), dog team in the winter, or boat in the summer. Every summer, they put a fish wheel into the Yukon to catch anywhere from 4,000-5,000 Chum salmon to feed their sled dogs. Several years ago, Wayne ran the Yukon Quest; however, now Scarlett and Wayne own and operate Bush Alaska Expeditions, a remote dog touring business that offers the real deal.
Tyler, Matt, and I drove to Eagle (about an 8-10 hour drive depending on road conditions). We combined it with a trip to Delta to grab our winter’s supply of straw for our kennels. Once we arrived in the small community of Eagle (population 65ish), Wayne and their handler, Greg, picked us, and we took their boat downriver to their homestead. You might recognize the city of Eagle, Alaska as a checkpoint in the Yukon Quest. While the Taylor Highway does go to Eagle, it isn’t maintained during the winter months, so a section of the Yukon Quest trail travels on the Taylor Highway, up and over American Summit, and down into Eagle. From there, the Quest trail goes up the Yukon River to Circle, where it once again gets on the road system. Even though I’ve been to Eagle before, I had never seen it in the summertime. American Summit was known for blizzards, wind drifts, and terrifying conditions, and Eagle was a sleepy little community right on the banks of the frozen Yukon River. It was incredible to see all that country in a different season. The town of Eagle was still quiet and easy-going, but wow- American Summit and the Yukon River are TOTALLY different! It’s hard to believe so much water is rushing under our feet as we mush along the frozen Yukon. Or that American Summit actually has a graded road winding up its summit instead of side-hilling wind drifts and sloping glaciers.
While at Scarlett and Wayne’s house, we helped them move their fish wheel across the Yukon River and stage it in preparation for it to be hauled up the bank and stored for the winter. Moving the fish wheel across the Yukon can be a challenging task. If the fish wheel starts to drift too far with the current or turn crosswise to the current, it can result in disaster. Luckily, Wayne expertly pushed the fish wheel across the river and landed it perfectly in an eddy where it would sit until they haul it on land. After that, Matt showed us around the cabin, taking us grayling fishing, up a cliff to a falcon nest, and around the slough. He shared with us stories from his childhood and growing up in bush Alaska. What an incredible way of life! A big thank you to the Halls for letting me sleep on your floor for a couple nights and giving me a little glimpse into your world!