Chapter 8 - Wolves

I awoke at daybreak to the sound of wolves howling in the distance. I knew there were wolves in Alaska but I had never seen one in the wild. The creatures fascinated me, so noble and powerful like the sled dog teams back in town. Most of their howling wasn't like the long, sweeping howls of the dogs. Instead it was more of a series of yips and barks, more conversational than the howling I was used to. I almost felt comforted by their presence. If they could survive out here, I could too. There was nothing stopping me.

So I burrowed my way out from underneath my shelter and picked up the rest of the rabbit. I was so hungry I wasn't even bothered by the fact that it was covered in flies. Washing it off in the river, I noticed the other two snares had caught rabbits as well. It was incredible how well the simple technology had functioned. Sitting down by the riverbed, I began to eat the rest of the rabbit, pondering what I would do next. I could follow the river down to McKinley Park, or I could veer off and try to catch more rabbits. Rabbits live near the river, so I chose to stay by the river. It was sensible: I had a fast method of travel, readily available food and water, and I knew how to make my own shelter. I just had to make it to civilization before winter.

I crossed the stream, picking up the other two rabbits. Crossing again, I tied the rabbits onto the raft and pushed off again, heading down the river. I wondered if I would find myself closer to the wolf pack. I might have some competition in hunting rabbits. I also thought maybe I could share their kills as wolves killed moose and regularly in the area. If anything, wolves could always guide me to water if I had to stray away from the river. I hoped I didn't have to, I knew this was dangerous. If I ran out of food or water, I knew I would die out there.

I made my way downstream quickly as the river would take me. I stopped again before the sun set to prepare a shelter again. This time I added driftwood to my shelter to keep it upright, and from falling down on me. By laying driftwood against a tree, placing spruce branches on top of it, and adding mud to insulate, I was able to create a makeshift shelter just big enough for me to curl up inside against the tree. It wasn't comfortable, but I was feeling better than ever. I was away from the people who had attacked me, independent and free. I was on my own for the first time and it felt great.

I feasted on the first rabbit again, noticing the flavor was starting to change slightly as the meat aged. I realized the other two rabbits would rot if I wasn't careful, and I hadn't seen any other rabbits on the stream. A few holes, but nothing quite promising. I decided to dry the meat the next few days instead of traveling further down the river.

I woke up late, but at least warm. I began searching for stones to best cut open and dry the remaining two rabbits, and I found some just upstream from me in the water. There was no obsidian with sharp edges for cutting, but there were similar rocks out here I could chip together to form a sharp edge and then use to cut. I chipped a small blade out of a rock and began gutting the rabbits. I separated the meat into as small of pieces as I could, scraping my makeshift knife against the rocks below as I did so. I then assembled as many large black rocks as I could find near the bank of the river and carefully laid every scrap of meat out across the rocks, eating a few as I did so. The raw meat was tasteless and mundane, but it was enough fuel to keep me going.

I mostly spent the day asleep. It was hard to get a good night of sleep when every night the bitter cold would seep into my shelter and send shivers down my spine. When I woke up I wished I had awoken earlier, as I could have had more success drying the meat. I decided I would stay another day to dry the meat, being as the sunlight had already done a good job of drying one half. Realizing I would need something to carry the small pieces of meat, I decided to explore the area and look for something promising.

Lookikng around, there was nothing I could craft a basket or bag from. Instead, I decided to improvise with more spruce roots. This time none were exposed, so as the sun set I settled down under a young spruce tree and began digging through the moss at its roots. I took a break to find a sharp stick to pierce the pieces of meat with so I could string them up for easy keeping. I found a sharp broken piece of spruce branch which worked perfectly.

Continuing to dig with the branch, I pulled a long, thick root from the base of the tree and severed it with my stone blade. It took a while to cut the root because this was a thicker one, but it was worth it. I decided to let the root soak overnight in order to make it as flexible as possible so I could carry it as I walked. I knew I would have to walk some distance to reach my destination, the river would only carry me so far. There was a great barrier ahead of me: The Alaska Range. I could never cross the mountain range, but I was confident that after returning to civilization near the range no one would put me back in that torturous family.

Retiring to my den I laid awake pondering my predicament. Why hadn't I just returned to the bridge after falling in the water? I wouldn't have to suffer this bitter cold and eat raw meat every day. Maybe I could make a fire but I didn't know how at all, let alone have any tools. I had almost nothing at all as the matter of fact, only a few simple possessions I had crafted from the nature. I figured there would be a search party for me, but they didn't know I had a raft. They probably couldn't predict that I had traveled so fast downriver. I fell asleep early, planning on leaving the afternoon of the next day once the meat had had some time to dry. I only had about half of the meat left.

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