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Conan's Alaska Adventure, Part Five

Aug 16, 2011

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Neal Conan

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"Last year, the hottest days of the summer came in August." Dick Peterson stood near the corral on a warm morning, dressed in an undershirt and hiking pants zipped off at the knees. "We'll have good weather now, clear on into Autumn."

Just after midday, a group of riders came down off Glassing Hill and saw a grizzly about 75 yards away on the slope to the right. The bear saw them, too. It stood and thought for a moment, then ambled off up the hill. Mark led Susan off in pursuit; those who waited suffered attack by billions of bugs that boiled off the bushes, driven by the heat of the day and the prospect of fresh meat. Even so, once the ride resumed, Nancy and Gretel noted that some of the leaves had begun to turn.

Late in the afternoon, a separate expedition returned to camp with a cool wind at their backs. Will, Gretchen and Denise met a caribou and spotted some sheep, but the purpose of their mission was to put up a decoy tent on Hourglass Lake. This was the last day of the last summer wilderness trip. Tomorrow, hunters would arrive and a glimpse of canvas might well persuade a float plane pilot to fly on to a "less crowded" site.

At dinner, we toasted the end if an era. After this season, the operation would pass to the young Koehler boys, Will and Mark. Dick and Gretchen said they wouldn't miss it. Sure.

We shared an amazing meal of cottonwood smoked chicken, mashed cauliflower, coleslaw and fudge zucchini cake. Will and Mark wondered where they would find a new cook.

At sunset, a small group wandered down to the creek and watched the light die on the peaks above. The lingering heat of the sauna soon lured them in from the chill, and Gretchen told stories of the uncommonly hard winter in London, many years ago, when she learned her trade at Cordon Bleu.

This time next year, she and Dick will be in Jackson or Paris or Timbuktu.

It was a cold, crisp night. Change had come to Horsfeld.

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