We had one more day of unusually warm weather for late fall in the far north. Rhett stalked and took a fine caribou with glowing dark velvet and an atypical drop tine. He was delighted.
I fondly remember Rhett’s hand on my shoulder one night as he roused me from a sound sleep. He and one of our new friends had discovered aurora borealis playing in the northern heavens. We all tugged on a semblance of clothes and stumbled out on the beach. Stretched across the inky sky were glowed bands of swirling lights. They swayed, ebbed and flowed in ribbons of changing colors and undulated in hypnotic motion like the sway of a celestial ancient native dancer. At times the glow would be but a pencil line that shimmered thinly, but brightly across the sphere of sky. At other times the borealis would widen like luminescent curtains descending unevenly on the stage of the expansive dome of sky. It was Magical. Over several nights we all spent hours transfixed by the unearthly show. Our late night visual treats were to be precursors of unusual weather phenomena.
Rain squalls of fine wet mist, almost a frozen gropple, moved in over the next days. This was the kind of weather we had expected. The Texans and Steve took several fine caribou. Rhett and I explored. The driving winds which accompanied the wet advent of the beginnings of tundra winter whipped the surface of the river into a whitecap frenzy and revealed the intrigue of a sand spit which connected two chunks of tundra. Rhett and I grabbed our rifles mid day and took off to investigate. We hiked across the narrow spit of suddenly appeared gravel river bottom surrounded by the tempest of water and weather, a surreal draw bridge across a wide boiling moat, at times having no discernable beginning or ending connection to terrain.
The sun played hide and seek with the squalls. As it peeked and waned between the bluster of weather, rainbows played over the landscape, sometimes as crowns to gentle folds of tundra hills, sometimes as frames of the surge of wind driven river. On more than one occasion I found my face creased in a wide grin. I have always had a thing for rainbows. Now they had followed me north to the sub arctic.
The two days of mystical rainbow treats foreshadowed the end of the expedition. Rhett had one tag left, and the Texans were also short a caribou bull. One full day remained. The sun had reappeared, though its smile was without the warmth of earlier in the week. In 36 hours we would sadly be on board bush planes headed back to the relative civilization of Kujuiiak.
To be continued…