...they might as well be blue.
Last weekend my wife and I spent the better part of four days exploring a valley in the Alaska Range. Our reason for choosing that area was its potential for sheep, but we also knew that we had a chance at moose and grizzly bear. We certainly hoped that in four days we would find something to chase, but just the chance to spend some time in the mountains during these waning days of summer was what we were really after.
After spending all of day one getting to our area, day two was spent bushwhacking our way up an alder-choked draw hoping to make it into a high bowl that we hoped would hold rams.
As the day wore on, it became apparent that we weren't going to reach our original goal, so soon we chose to spend some time sampling the berries that were spread over the hillside. We had just a hint of rain that day, but nothing too bad.
The next morning we decided to climb the mountain right behind camp and follow the high valley on the other side. It would give us a view of a large drainage on the other side while also allowing us to peer into the bowl that we were hoping to access on the previous day. On that climb I realized just how much stronger of a climber my wife is than me. Though we spent the summer having tons of outdoors adventures, almost all of them were kid-paced, so I was sucking wind as I tried to keep up.
That day was glorious, but alas, no sheep were to be found. We spotted ~20 ewes and lambs on a distant face, but nothing in our vicinity. We did see at least 15 caribou, but of course our tag was already filled from a successful trip three weeks prior. Still, it was very cool spending that time up above 5,000' with caribou running around the peaks.
Late in the afternoon we spotted four rams that were three drainages and about 5 miles away, but at that point we were down to our last four hours of hunting. We could do some spotting the next morning, but we couldn't take more than an extra day off of work at this point, so spending a day or two chasing those white spots would have to wait for another day. Again, we found ourselves distracted by the blue dots blanketing the mountainside. We figured that spotting moose or bears would be easier with some elevation, so why not pick some berries while we're at it?
As we were picking we were once again visited by a caribou, seemingly mocking us that the valley was filled with the one animal we couldn't legally pursue.
In all we saw probably 40 ewes and lambs, 20+ caribou, and only one lone cow moose. A gentleman we talked to had spotted a grizzly in an area we had considered hunting, but we chose to give him some space when he said he was going back in that direction the next day. Still, the trip was a great success. I got to spend three nights in a tent in a spectacular area with my bride, I got to climb mountains, and yes, we got to bring home lots of blueberries for our boys. Bringing home meat is always great, but we've already been blessed thus far this year and our freezers certainly aren't bare. And now....now it's time for some blueberry pancakes for breakfast.