Alana and I spent the weekend at a house in Delta Junction, celebrating our friends’ wedding. We decided to take advantage of being in the area and check out another ADFG cabin nearby. Snow fell throughout the weekend, making it hard to distinguish the road from the shoulder in the flat light as we made our way south down the Alcan Highway. About an hour later, we found ourselves just south of the Gerstle River and at our starting point for the trek to Donna Lake. We took the mess of gear that we had and consolidated it into our packs, strapping rounds of wood on top once everything was cinched and tight. And off we went, shuffling through six inches of snow on the trail through white and black spruce forests.
An hour and a half later we crested a hill filled with birch trees and found ourselves staring at the lake as well as the bases of the mountains beyond. A loon floated by on the lake, enjoying this last period of open water before everything freezes over. Despite the journal filled of previous party goer antics, we found the cabin in good shape. We settled in, making hot water and standing by the fire as the dogs romped around outside in the fresh snow. The rest of the afternoon passed in leisure. I whittled a spoon, Alana read her book next to the woodstove and occasionally we’d both wander out, admiring the ascetics of the surrounding area.
A little while after the dogs ate their meal, we realized we hadn’t heard or seen Remi in a while. Our voices echoed off the shores of the lake and the surrounding mountains as we called. “Reeeemi. Remi, come!” 10 minutes of calling and no sign. We put Taiga inside, grabbed a headlamp and took off down the trail in pursuit. We followed his tracks through dense black spruce, into snow drifts, back to the trail, then back to the spruce. For a while I thought that he had tried crossing the water and fell into the ice but I found his tracks turning around right at the water. We followed his tracks past dark and eventually decided to give up after following them to an area where they doubled back on each other more than once with all kinds of crossroads. It had only been a few minutes on our way back when Alana heard the clinking of his rabies tag against his collar. After 1.5 hours of tracking, we were reunited once more and with our evening entertainment complete, we all made it back to the cabin.
We woke to a greater view of the mountains the next morning. The overcast ceiling had risen slightly during the night and temperatures remained mild, hovering around 30. We packed up our things, trudging back through our tracks from the day before. The trail back was even faster than the way in and we schemed about our return to this area. Perhaps next time we’d venture to the Little Donna Lake cabin further down the trail and check out the Little Gerstle River beyond. With this trip, winter is upon us and inevitably more cabins, skis, bike rides and adventures on the trail.