Farewell to the Tundra – Blog 13 – Tundra Series

Rhett and I spent our last day chasing a big black bear sow with three cubs. Pictures galore and great practice stalking in patchy bogs interspersed with heavy brush and timber.

We first spotted her two miles out. We plotted together for a minute, then set a double time intercept course through the undergrowth and up a steep densely wooded ridge. We popped out of the tree line out of breath. Before we could get our bearings there she was, just one hundred yards out. The perfect blind stalk.

Of course we saw two separate caribou bulls that afternoon, both monsters bigger than any of our animals. In a blatant display of disrespect they stood broadside, unperturbed and thumbing their hooves at us for minutes a mere one hundred and twenty yards away. I could have sworn I heard them snort derisively.

As dusk crept across the tundra pale mist clung to the low areas in ghostly shrouds. Low hanging clouds billowed and scuttled hide and seek across the river. Ground and sky vapors commingled and materialized into yet another rainbow. Its arc of glowing prism kissed the landscape at the head of a far off draw like a wave farewell from this unique and special corner of the planet.

Then it was morning. We said our good-byes to Ralph, Annie, Kerry and Calvin.  Annie’s final sumptuous breakfast blended with the typical departure day scramble to gather gear, repack, and get organized for the long journey home.

The drone of float planes reverberated across the river shortly after breakfast. To get us and all our gear out, and to transport a new group of hunters into Camp Reále Safari Nordik had pulled out the stops. For a bit the river resembled a morning at a remote and wild Denver International. The whine of turbines and hiss of spray filled the air. The pontoons of a number of float planes lapped the light waves of the river surface and grated to a bobbing halt on the sandy beach which was a beehive of incoming and outgoing hunters, gear, meat and antlers being loaded and neatly packed duffels of the newcomers off loaded.

As the engines of the otter howled and the floats of the plane banged and shuddered on the uneven water surface in take off I gazed transfixed from the window which dripped from the back wash of the propellers.

I smiled out the window at the land. “Good bye for now” I whispered softly. ”I’ll be back.”


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