Muskies and Bears
Solomon Travel Blog› entry 32 of 38 › view all entries
A light rain tapping the WeatherPort tent muffled out the morning start-up of the generator. Jenny, the camp cook, fires the diesel engine around 4:30 to energize the kitchen tent and begin preparing breakfast for twenty. I usually wake up around six o'clock when camp begins to stir with chatter and activity. But in this unseasonably cold summer, the warmth of my extra-wide, flannel-lined sleeping bag and the small oil-burning Geo-stove made for a nice sleep -- too nice because I didn't wake up until nearly eight o'clock. My plan for a leisure, hearty camp breakfast before heading back to Nome was suddenly abandoned for a scramble to gulp a cup of coffee, grab a fistful of granola bars, pack my sleeping bag, and attempt a record-breaking drive to get the rented Ford SUV turned-in by 10:00 a.
The narrow, curvy track was muddy and slick following the Fox River allowing no leisure time for the habitual scanning for wildlife. I sped by the area where I had spotted grizzlies on the last trip with barely a glance. The road turns to flattened gray gravel ascending the hills toward Skookum Pass. Its curves become wider allowing for greater speed and I was able to hit 60 mph on some stretches. It was on one such high-speed, valley curve that I spotted the musk-oxen.
What to do? I was pressed for time and had already seen those beasts at a much closer distance at the White Alice Site outside Nome.
Racing down the coastal side of the hills, I glanced at my pocket watch to see that I should reach Nome by ten. Then where the road arced to intercept the east fork of the Solomon River, I reckoned speed allowed for the element of surprise as I spotted a grizzly on the opposite bank.