A Chilkoot Trail

 I can't cut up meat and wrap it while I'm still on my first cup of coffee, but Chip can. He has been up for a few hours, and the kitchen looks like a butcher shop and smells like clean blood. The dogs are watching him nervously from the hall. They always seem to be equally curious and skittish when it comes to hunting smells. While I was in Juneau, Chip went goat hunting, even though I said it wasn't a good idea to go alone. Mountain goats live in treacherous terrain. When he left at dawn Thursday Chip said he'd be fine, and not to call anyone to come looking for him until after dark Friday. At four on Friday Sarah called me at UAS and said "Dad's not back yet, should we be worried?" Which is always a bad question to ask me, since, as soon as she said that I was. He was high above Lutak, the same area where he and I got a goat a few years ago. I told Sarah which guys to call to look for him, the ones I thought knew the trail best and were fit enough to hike it quickly-- but said to wait until dark to do it.  I was in a hurry to get to a little reception with the UAS English faculty, and then my talk in the library, but promised to keep my phone on. Of course it rang while people were talking to me about writing and such, and I had to be one of those people I frown upon who answers her cell in public. I apologized, but answered it-- And sure enough, it was Chip, he was back, safe and sound. I said, "Great, I'll call you later" and hung up. Then one of the English majors said, "Did he get a goat?"I hadn't asked. Later, I heard all about it, and when Chip picked me up at the airport on Saturday he asked if  I'd like to hike back up to get his pack and the hide, which he'd cached at about 1800 feet. He had shuttled two packs of meat and gear from about 3,000 feet down to that spot the day before, and then left one pile so he'd be home by dark,  like he promised, and not worry us.  As we walked up the the steep trail through the big timber, above the long-gone Tlingit village at Chilkoot, Chip said that the night before, sleeping under the moon on the ridge, he thought about all the people who had taken this trail, since, as the Tlingit people say,  time immemorial, to do the same thing he had, and how good it is that, it, and the goats, the hunters, and this wild place place are all still here. It's not the kind of thing he usually says, reflection is more my department. Which I suppose means it's time for me to finish my coffee and get back downstairs and help him wrap that meat.


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