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You can bet on this: Old ManWinter’s on his way

Posted: October 3, 2013 - 10:00am

A friend of mine recently returned from a hunting trip at his secluded and highly classified spot somewhere above the Arctic Circle and had an all points bulletin.  

“Nick, major winter is sneaking down toward us faster than my cat moves when your profoundly disturbed dog, Howard, starts staring at her like she’s a stuffed pork chop with paws.”

He and his crew had been bogged down in some brutal weather and spent most of their time trying to keep their camp from being spread over the terrain like chocolate icing on an éclair mauling a toddler’s mug rather than ninja-creeping around stalking hairy things with hooves.

Although I’ve never hunted that far north, I could relate to what they had faced because I’ve spent some harsh times edging through blizzards and dodging avalanches in that part of the state, while back home, my wife was still mowing the lawn and nursing along her outdoor flower pots.

I recall one time when I was away from the south bank of the Brooks Range area of the Dalton Highway for just over a week and returned to discover a radically changed environment. 

I’m talking seemly instant full fall colors along with termination dust on the 20th of August. It was flat stunning and I marveled like any other mesmerized tourist at the seas of flaming reds and dazzling shades of gold drenching the mountain sides and flooding down through gorges into valleys already blanketed with crimson capes of fireweed. But I didn’t let the warm and fuzzies detract from the fact that behind that glowing foliage facade lurked the premature arrival of the beast of winter.

I realized that it wouldn’t be long until its glacial breath spread a shiny finish of ice on the road’s surface that would be challenging for drivers to negotiate without the unseemly bellowing of physically impossible expletives while trying to avoid implanting their rigs into the ribs of clueless moose or a crossing herd of caribou with a composite I.Q. of a wood duck.

My prediction came true on Sept. 5 when five-plus inches of the white dander of doom carpeted the tundra and had the audacity to stick around for awhile.

Of course that snit fit of nature had to transpire just as every wannabee big game hunter from Fairbanks south was trying to truck their four wheelers, air boats, all track vehicles and half hammered buddies up the Haul Road to their secret base camps that were usually about 10 yards off the thoroughfare and close to a couple of cases of schnapps. 

Most of those guys ended up with trophy hangovers and not much else but harrowing drives home with a plethora of tall tales about high arctic survival and descriptive techniques on how to pee while standing in whiteout conditions without suffering instantaneous frostbite that even their closest friends wouldn’t volunteer to help treat.

It is amazing how some guys will bicker for hours over a $10-garage sale item and then turn around and blow a truck load of cash for a shot at some wild critter kibbles that would end up being wickedly more expensive than a couple sides of Kolbe Beef cut, wrapped and delivered to the front door. 

I should know. My lovely wife has such price comparisons cataloged from some of my less noteworthy manly sojourns in “Nick’s Disasters Dossier” that she produces for review when she notices I’m oiling up the old scoped 7mm while staring at the kaleidoscope of colors draped across the mountains.

Now don’t take things wrong here. She doesn’t mind if I wander off into the wilderness in search of my hunter/gather identity. She just wants the calamity catalog to serve as a reminder not to travel more than 400 miles with a bunch of cool toys and then discover you forgot your rifle. Women can be picky, at times.   

But, ’nuf said about rusting memories. Let’s get back to the matter at hand. 

With my bro’s latest weather observations and trip report, it looks as though some early deep freeze history may be about to repeat itself and the odds of a mild trek into winter is as likely as a smooth political transition into Obamacare. 

I think it’s about time to quaff a jug of Red Bull along with a hefty chaser of Geritol and get started on sealing things up and cold-proofed around here before I wake one morning and discover snow on the deck butt deep to a Budweiser Clydesdale.

But, before all that heavy lifting, I think I’ll bag a side of local beef by making a phone call. It’ll fit just fine in the freezer along side the halibut, cod, salmon and rockfish. If there’s any room left, my veteran buddy Turk has a pig that he’s having a personality conflict with. Maybe I could help him out with that issue.  

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com if he isn’t with his bride stalking the aisles at Costco during their annual pre-winter big city safari.

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