Composing in the Wilderness ’13 Part 2
PART 2- YUKON CHARLEY
7/14 Our long travel day suddenly became much shorter when we learned that a flood will necessitate our flying to Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve instead of driving and boating to the park. A chartered 10-seater whisks us up over the Alaska interior NE from Fairbanks for an hour flight. The gravel runway at Coal Creek camp in the park is made up of the rock tailings from the old gold mining operation here. Park staff picks us up in ATV’s to take us to the camp. The closest community to the camp is 60 miles down the river in one direction and 100 miles the other. We are staying in the 1930s era cabins originally built for the gold dredge workers and spend the rest of the afternoon composing.
In the evening, we learn the history of the park and the Coal Creek Gold Mine.
7/15 After a morning of working on our pieces and swatting mosquitoes – we all drive out to the Yukon River in the ATVs. The park staff takes our group 30 miles upriver in a flat bottom boat. The ride was windy and the feeling of isolation that I felt yesterday continues. Other than a couple public use cabins, we see nothing indicative of civilization. The Yukon River is the highway here. The borders of the river ebb and flow merely as suggestions as to the border of its invisible banks. The sediment grinds together to form sandy beaches. Arriving on an island across from the 1000 ft. high Biederman’s Bluff, we plow through the sand to find a place for some creative time and to eat our lunch. After we get back, we explore Slaven’s Roadhouse and compose the rest of the afternoon.
7/16 The concert is a week from today. I don’t like the section I created over the last couple of days, so I’m following my gut and deleting it – nearly half of what I’ve composed! Time is tight, but revision is necessary. After lunch we visit the historic Gold Dredge. Closing permanently in the 1970s, it has all the appearance of people going home for the day – everything remains. Randy, our interpretive ranger, tells us that while it looks a bit rusty, it is in working order and could be “fired up” any time. I’ve decided I’d like to write a piece about Yukon Charley after I finish my Denali piece.
7/18 I’m a day behind – I yanked out the 3rd section and started it over. We had all day yesterday to compose, but I took a break and walked west along an old forest trail heading west. The forest burned here in 2004. Armed with bear spray and my mosquito head gear, I picked up the pace, stiff from sitting so still. I didn’t want to risk meeting any bears, so I started a song “Hey Bear, you better keep away from me”…silly maybe, but I didn’t run into any bears and the mosquitos abandoned me as well! Cool. Today, we flew back – I volunteered for the four-seater and the pilot flew low along the Yukon to Circle (inside the Arctic Circle) I have a better appreciation for the scale of the preserve and the sense of place. We’re spending the next few days in Fairbanks at UAF.