A Walk on the Wild Side
Kiana Travel Blog› entry 20 of 38 › view all entries
Just across the Kobuk from our camp there is a string of small ponds which begin a hundred yards from the river and are accessible along a willow-lined drainage. After the morning fog and gray skies lifted, I took the motorboat upstream , crossed over just beyond the first bend, then stabbed the anchor into firm mud fifty yards short of that drainage. The short walk to the drainage was slow and quiet; hopefully enough to allow any wildlife beyond that point the time to resume its daily routine. No new tracks were present, only those of the bears, a sow and a cub, and my own prints; all from previous visits.
The narrow passage leading to the open clearing of the first pond was rather short so it was possible to scan a good portion of the area for big game before continuing toward it.
It was always a relief to reach the open clearing of that first pond. Then I could see its entire surface and the wide band of green grass surrounding it. But like all my previous visits, this one offered nothing to see but the loons silently drifting on the pond, away from me in a tight vee-formation. Their numbers had increased with each visit; eggs hatched and ducklings nearly the size of adults.
This time I had decided to hike in to the second pond, less than a mile inland.
On the far side of the first pond, I found the drainage connecting it to the second. It was wide and made for easy, though wet, walking. I approached the new pond in a low and slow crouch, stopping frequently to study its perimeter for any sign of activity or movement. One loon was all that I found which was joined by a mate who glided onto a smooth water landing.
I returned to the first pond and continued the hike to completely circle it, along the water's edge. Fresh moose tracks everywhere; cows and calves, but no moose.
Many of our crew haul back to camp the moose and caribou antlers that they stumble upon while working in the hills and creek-beds. Those that are enormous, trophy-class specimens are often shipped home as unique souvenirs from the 'Last Frontier', but most of the bones end up strewn around camp, mounted above doorways, or propped on the riverbank as if to signal our very existence like a rural mailbox. The specimen I had stumbled upon was a rare find, a real gem. Its vertebrae were intact from head to pelvis and several of its ribs were still connected. Like a madman ravaging the Alaskan bush for four months, I found something and intended to hang on to it. I deserved it! I earned it! It was mine! I brought the find back to our riverbank trail and laid it next to a larger caribou skull and antlers, too tired to haul it up the hill into camp.