Our first morning at Folly Lake Josh prepared a great breakfast that included our only fresh eggs of the trip. We were all starving and hovered around waiting to enjoy a hot breakfast in the crisp cool air under clear indigo skies.

Josh had no more announced that breakfast was ready when almost simultaneously a herd of 75 caribou appeared only a few hundred feet down stream from the cook tent.

We all began setting down our plates and scrambling for cameras and binoculars. After a 30 minute delay we all headed back for breakfast. Josh did a great job of keeping things warm and we thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast and the floor show.

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Shortly after breakfast we saw a few more small herds skirting their way around our camp. After a while it became apparent that most of the caribou were appearing over a high ridge about a mile and a half southeast of camp but from there it was anybody's guess which path they would take as they went north.
The first couple of days we each carefully counted every caribou keeping an accurate count but then it became a game to see if I could guess the number of caribou before counting. I found that even with herds up to 100 I was rarely off by more than four or five. Over the course of seven days we saw well over 2,500 caribou.

After our first morning's breakfast show I was itch'n to hike up towards the ridge where the caribou were appearing and just lay and wait to see if I could get a good photograph. I soon realized the ridge was farther away than I had thought and much higher. I'd walk a while and then set for a while but I continued to make progress.

Finally I saw a small group of 4 caribou coming towards me about 150 yards away. I froze and waited until they dropped down out of sight in one of the several ravines between them and me. Each time they appeared and disappeared I adjusted my location.

Then just 50 feet away antlers began to appear over the top of the ridge next to me. My heart was pounding. I knew they were coming straight at me. The first one over the ridge was a young bull. At that close distance even he seemed quite large. Now my heart was pounding so hard I'm surprised they didn't hear it. Then I thought to myself "Uh, John?" "What?" "Have you ever heard of a caribou attacking a man?" "Well, hmmm? I've watched lots of nature programs but I don't remember seeing anything like that." "Good, I hope you're right." Now all four were over the ridge and only 30 feet away, including a beautiful mature bull. Wow they're big AND CLOSE.

They stopped briefly about 170 feet away to look back at me from the next ridge

I got ready for them to spook as I shot my first photo but I was surprised that they only briefly looked around but weren't at all alarmed. They even looked straight at me but as long as I was down wind, and didn't move, I seemed to be invisible to them. Even though I had nothing to hide behind. I shot almost everything with a 90mm lens until my film ran out. The auto wind noise of the camera finally spooked them just enough that they began to briskly walk away. They stopped briefly about 170 feet away to look back at me from the next ridge allowing me to get one last shot with my newly loaded camera.
The week provided many wonderful views and exciting encounters with the caribou but none would be as close as that first hike on my first full day at Kutuk Pass.

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