Lydia had a habit of imposing confidence on any adventure. If she was dating, she would ask the guy, “have you ever heard of super gonorrhea?” If she was traveling in more isolated lands, she would ask, “have you ever seen the movie, Wolf Creek?”
Wolf Creek takes place in Australia on some desolate highway featuring the kidnappings and murders of hundreds of travelers. It’s based on a true story, I guess, and Aussies seem to take it seriously. As we searched our second night in Yukon for a place to camp, we passed through Whitehorse and found a campground: Wolf Creek.
Lydia. Lost. Her. Shit.
It was surprisingly quaint, I must say, despite its name. Salmon spawn in the summer in the creek, and there’s potential for gold panning (which I tried, and failed). We made exceptionally ghetto mushroom alfredo pasta for the night, and watched the stars, exceptional stars. I hadn’t seen true darkness all summer. Even in September, there’s some sort of glow in the sky that seems to haze out the stars on the few nights that it’s even clear… Land of the Midnight Sun, I guess. But two days southeast returned the night, and there were the stars.
Two nights before Wolf Creek, we relived the Hills Have Eyes… sort of. I was hellbent on seeing the Kennecott Mines, or at least the old gold rush town, and we drove until the sun set without knowing exactly how isolated Kennecott is. We were dangerously low on gas (thankfully, I had a can with 5 gallons), and there hadn’t been a pump for miles. In the darkness, we couldn’t find the alledged campground that google swore was nearby. But we found a Fish and Game post on the banks of a shallow glacial river with a bold warning to protect the delicate habitat of the river or consequences will follow. I tested the earth to see if had recently flooded in the recent rains, and I gave it the ok. And then… there was Jamie.
A nasty storm was rolling in, and with it came brutal winds. Our stove stuggled to stay lit as we cooked spam, pepper, and cheese sandwiches. Lydia, cursed with a lack of cold tolerance, suddenly realized the… joys, of Alaska, and was happy that I told her to bring snow pants to stay warm. And in the distance, headlights bobbed violently over potholes. We stopped and stared. I was concerned that perhaps it was Fish and Game, by chance crossing our paths to ticket us. Lydia was concerned it was some maniac redneck (gotta love the stereotypes from foreigners).
The engine revved as it pulled the battered pickup truck over a mud ledge and beside my Jeep with an abrupt stop. We still stared, and we were both convinced that we saw a dog in the back of the truck (we later learned that there was only questionable tarps and probably a half living victim that tried to get our attention). An awkward moment of stillness between the three parties kept us quiet as we waited for further action from the truck, observing as if we had discovered aliens for the first time and waited with baited breath for our inevitable demise at the pointed talons wrapped around the trigger of some horrid, unknown weapon. Instead, Jamie staggered out.
Devastatingly drunk, Jamie was more of a threat to himself thant he was to us, but we were still isolated beyond a call for help and a lil caution goes a long way. “There ARE people here!” Jamie exclaimed, ecstatic to see us. I invited him over as soon as I realized how drunk he was. Stranger or not, he was still a living soul worth looking out for, and perhaps he needed some time to sober up before continuing his drive down this lonely, deteriorated road. As it turned out, he owned land and a cabin down the way, but he saw the lights on the bank of the river and felt compelled to drunkenly investigate.
He pulled out two Alaskan IPAs, popped the caps, and handed them to us. Jamie was once a firefighter in California but had since relocated to Alaska. He loved the mountains and the isolation here, and saw greater opportunity for himself far north. Though, he missed the granite peaks he had grown with as a child. He beemed with joy about Yosemite. And while Lydia was desperately terrified of him, I saw zero threat and oddly enjoyed his drunken charm. I imagine he would be a fantastic person to talk to when sober, but boys will be boys and with the added element of alcohol, next thing you know he had willingly lit himself on fire. As he became increasingly threatening to himself, I urged him to go home, and he did so willingly after some time. I was even able to get a few more beers off of him (which was a total win. I’ll never turn down a beer and he certainly didn’t need anymore haha). And so Jamie hopped in his truck with his phantom victim/dog in the back and drove away. We turned off the lights, cleaned up the mess, stored the food far from ourselves, and huddled under our sleeping bags as the winds howled.
A familiar sound woke us, a truck engine. Jamie was back. Maybe he wasn’t so harmless. We could hear it stall, and the tires spun. It was stuck in a hole and the driver was maneuvering to free it. I knew that if something was going to happen, I’d be a sitting duck, wrapped in a blanket and mummy sleeping bag and barricaded in a tent to protect it and us from the wind. So, basically, I just accepted that if Jamie was going to attack us, we were going to die. He’d probably drive over us and that would be a quick way to die. I laughed. I went back to sleep when I heard the truck pull out of the hole and skid as if it were turning, the engine drove further away. But Lydia squirmed.
“This is how we die, Courtney,” Lydia groaned. “WOLF CREEK.” She had this outstanding sarcastic moan she’d voice when she was complaining.