had been introduced to all of my fellow trekkers the night before
at a pre-trip dinner in Fairbanks. It was a great little group.
Josh, a guy in his mid 20s, was our group leader, and he was "leading"
his first trip for Arctic Treks.
(a.k.a. Jonathan), an avid photographer from Minnesota, is currently
traveling around the country photographing every US national park.
Dick is a financial advisor from Pennsylvania. John & Betsy are
US Forestry employees from Montana and me, another John. Good grief
there are only six people on the trip and half of them are named
John. Thus the reason John from Minnesota went by Jonathan to simplify
things a bit.
morning we were all sitting outside in front of the cook tent
went I saw something walking along the edge of the lake coming
our way. It's a bear. We all grabbed our cameras and walked up
near the sleeping tents to get a better view.
He was very light in color, almost blondish. It wasn't until he
was within 200 feet that he seemed to notice us. He just stopped,
sat upright on his butt and looked at us like. "What's this crap?"
sat there for about a minute and then continued his path straight
towards us. At about 100 feet it became apparent he wasn't going
to vary his course around us. He was coming straight at us. That's
when we started to slowly back up and began talking to the bear.
"Hi bear. Yep, we're here. We're just campin' out and not looking
for any trouble. Just keep on going." The bear was on a straight
path to Jonathan's tent. Once he was within 5 feet of the tent
I almost expected to see him investigate the tent or worse. But
instead he just walked right past it without giving it any notice.
Then past Dick's tent and he was gone. He never showed any signs
of aggression but likewise he wasn't the slightest bit intimidated
by these six scruffy campers.
days later as I was hiking by myself over the pass and around
the lakes when I saw another bear. He was on the ridge just above
me going in the opposite direction just 150 feet away. I don't
think he ever saw me as his attention was on a herd of caribou.
I was happy he kept going because I didn't have any bear spray
and I was armed only with my camera. "Stop or I'll shoot."
ten and a half hours of intermittent travel we are here. 6:30 PM
and we are at Kutuk Pass, well inside the Arctic Circle, and a long
way away from any thing. Once the plane flies off we're pretty much
on our own. Yeah sure, we've got a radio but to actually contact
anyone their plane
needed to be in a direct line with us and we only saw one plane
over the next seven days. Hey, this is the real deal, Arctic seclusion.
on any photograph to see a larger
image and/or cycle through all the images on this page.
We saw well over 2,500 caribou the week we were at Kutuk Pass
didn't take long until we began to meet some of the local residents.
Shortly after setting up the tents the first of many herds of caribou
meandered past us on the east side of the valley. They didn't come
very close but on the other hand they didn't appear to be too bothered
by the new neighbors.
only saw the one heard of 25 caribou that first night but over the
next 7 days we saw well over 2,500 head.
and caribou … But will it last?