Moon Sunn, Ty, and George Earl's 1973 Alaska Trip

Updated: Sep 10, 2021


We are Mountain Men!


We drove and drove, and we would stop and sleep most of them nights. George Earl in that camper, Ty on that cot and me up there on the front seat of that truck. I did most of the drivin’.”


During the day, we all rode up there on the front seat. George Earl and Ty were pretty big fellas, and it was pretty crowded. We finelee’ got up there somewhere in that Yukon territory. Ty and George Earl had never seen them big snow-covered mountains before, and they kept sayin’ they wanted to climb one of ’em. So, we pulled over beside a big ’en.”


That movie, Jeremiah Johnson, had come out sometime the year before. We all piled out of that truck and started up that mountain. We didn’t get very far up there ’til we hit pretty deep snow. We went about hundred yards or so and that snow was gettin’ deeper and deeper. They finelee’ said they was ready to turn around.”


As we was comin’ back down that mountain, I yelled as loud as I could, “By God, I are a mountain man!”


You could hear it echoing down the sides of them mountains. Ty and George Earl joined in and all the way back down that mountain we yelled, “By God, we are mountain men.”


Lake Trout on the Rancheria River


“We got to that ‘Ranchero’ River (Rancheria River[1]), pulled over and decided to camp for the night. I took a spin caster down to that river and I thank I was a throwin’ a Mepps # 4 spinner. I hadn’t casted but a couple of times before I hooked and landed a big lake trout. It was well over ten pounds.”


George Earl took it back up there where we was campin’ and me and Ty kept a fishin’. I thank we managed to catch a couple more pike. George Earl couldn’t do many thangs very well, but man he was a good cook! When we got back to camp, George Earl had built a fire, fried that lake trout, and made some french fries and hushpuppies in a cast iron skillet.


I told him, “Man, this might be the best meal I’ve ever eatin’.”


If you bragged on George Earl a little bit, he would do it even better the next time.”


Grizzly Huntin’


We loaded up that next mornin’ and drove somewhere just a little southwest of Tok. We decided to pull over and camp again, figurin’ that would put us into Soldotna at a good time that next day. We stopped along another river; I don’t remember which one. George Earl announced he wanted to go a huntin’. That time of year the sun stays up a long time. I told him to go ahead, I figured he’d be back in a little bit. He took my Winchester 30-30 and walked down to that river.


It wasn’t long before he was back and said, “Man, there’s the biggest bear down there I’ve ever seen.”


I don’t thank he’d ever seen too many bears before. I was already tryin’ to lay down on the front seat of that truck, but George Earl insisted that me and Ty come have a look at that bear. I finelee’ got up and we all went down there.


“Do you see ’em?”


“Yeah.”


“At first, I really didn’t, I just wanted to get back up there in that truck and go to sleep. When I finelee’ saw him, I coudn’t believe how big he was! He was one of them giant grizzlies with a big hump on his back. He was on an island in that river diggin’ up willow shoots and eatin’ ’em.”


George Earl asked, “Do you want me to shoot him?”


I said, “Man, naw, give me that rifle!”


We watched him for a while and then decided to head back up there to the truck. That truck was only somethin’ about like two hundred yards away. We got back to the truck and Ty announced he had decided to let me have the cot for the night.


I told him, “We’ve already come this far like this and it ain’t gonna change now.”


He said, “What am I supposed to do?”


I told him, “That bear ain’t gonna bother you.”


“I don’t thank he was too convinced. He took that 30-30 and walked around for a few minutes a lookin’ down there toward that river and then he finelee’ got into that cot.”


Before I crawled back in the truck, I scooped me up a big hand full of rocks. When thangs got quiet, I’d roll down the window and toss one down there toward his cot. You’d hear it a bouncin’ around on them rocks and then you’d hear Ty’s sleepin’ bag a unzippin’. I’d barely raise my head up just little bit and I’d see him walkin’ around that cot with that 30-30. I kept him at it most of the night. You know it never gets too dark up there in Alaska that time of year.”

[1] Rancheria River, wikipedia “The Rancheria River is a tributary of the Liard River in the southern Yukon Territory, Canada, just north of the border with British Columbia.”

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When I first penned Moon and Sunn I included a truck load of chapter endnotes. I felt I needed to verify just about every historical detail of the entire book! After endless research editor Bobby Ha