North side of the Hayes Range: Part Two

Skull and fall colors. Eastern Alaska Range

Skull and fall colors. Wet and rainy weather is perfect for detail shots and can really bring out the colors.

Rain can be tough. The constant pattering on a thin sheet of nylon above your head can break the hardest man. Two ways I combat the inevitable slip  into insanity is either with music/radio or to just suck it up and go out in it!

During our first stretch of rain, which lasted thirty hours or so, I chose music and a selection of podcast. This entertainment, along with chores like boiling water for tea, made time go by quickly, without much madness. Barry read cheap crime novels (a popular diversion for a number of my outdoor companions) and faded in and out of sleep.

We decided Wednesday night that the next morning we would get up and head towards the Hayes Glacier, no matter what the weather. This was a hard decision for Barry, who is a fair weather backpacker that would rather sit it out then pack up in the rain. But I knew if we were going to get anywhere, we needed to go.

Late that night there was glorious silence, the rain had stopped. However, each time I would drift into sleep I would be startled by the sound of wolves. Sometimes they would be on one side of the valley, then a few minutes later I would hear howling on the other. Unlike the constant sound of rain on nylon, the wolves were a pleasing disturbance, reminding me that I was in a truly wild place.

The morning was cloudy but without moisture. We packed up quickly and followed a caribou track up a steep bank onto the plateau. We traveled slowly across spongy terrain, avoiding deep pools of water and tiny streams that were hidden in the mossy surface. About half way across we came upon a group of caribou, young males and females. We stood there watching them run back and forth, trying to decide what to do about us. Finally they just went back to grazing lichen, occasionally looking up to see what we were doing. The sun was peeking out on occasion and the clouds were swirling around the big mountains, it made a fantastic back drop for the caribou.

Caribou under unnamed mountains, Deborah-Hayes range, Eastern Alaska Range

Caribou under unnamed mountains, Deborah-Hayes range, Eastern Alaska Range

Caribou under Mount Hayes, Eastern Alaska Range

Caribou under Mount Hayes, Eastern Alaska Range

After spending time with the caribou we headed to the edge of the plateau, looking off, over the lower, moraine covered Hayes Glacier.

Beautiful mixed light, my favorite light for landscape photography. Hayes Glacier, Eastern Alaska Range.

Beautiful mixed light, my favorite light for landscape photography. Hayes Glacier, Eastern Alaska Range.

The weather was deteriorating and I wanted to take some pictures before it fell apart. We descended down a steep bank and crossed two streams before coming to a relatively flat spot. We put up the tent and the cook tarp and I quickly ran off to create images.

Mixed light and changing colors. Eastern Alaska Range

Mixed light and changing colors. Eastern Alaska Range

Good bye mountains.

Good bye mountains.

We also had a camping companion, a very large bull caribou. It appeared we had camped near his rutting pit. He would end up being a constant figure throughout the next two days.

Our camping companion.

Our camping companion.

We had a great dinner outside, under the darkening skies and within the presence of our caribou friend.  A few minutes after crawling into our bags, the rain began again.

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