Franklin, one of my students. We are 30 miles north of the village, in the direction of Chalkytsik, running the family trapline. Before the day is over we will have traveled 80 miles in 6 hours on his snow-go. The weather was mild, only eight below as we set out, and overcast. Snow fell much of the day, often very light but at times quite heavy. The portrait of Franklin was made at 1 pm. I rendered the photograph rather subdued to faithfully reflect the brightness and contrast of the moment.
Our trail was blazed years ago and has remained. We wound through countless woods and across as many lakes. Our pace was slow through the forests as we jolted over rough ground, limbs whipping against us. One caught me full in the face and stunned me for a moment.
The wind brandished her own special kind of whip as we flew across the frozen lakes at high speed. My coat and head gear kept me warm but the cold wore through my heavy snow pants at the knees. By the time I arrived home, my knees were beet red and numb, but a warm bath followed by a woolen blanket put them right again.
We startled willow ptarmigan several times. There seems to be a healthier population this year, and many have been seen in the village along the slough. The funny birds are white, a perfect winter camouflage, yet they enjoy roosting in the tops of spindly willows for all to see. They look positively silly and far too heavy to be supported by such little branches. Unfortunately for them, they are practically fearless of humans and Franklin and his brother Derrick quickly picked off five of the birds. They dress down to the size of a game hen, and are often called chickens here.
I’ll post more about the trapline and the catch this week.