GETTING TO KNOW MY SON JOE or ON FOOT ABOVE THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
Our oldest son, Joe, inherited from his Fox ancestors a great attachment to mountains, open spaces and the various flora and fauna that live above the tree line. After graduation from the University of California at Santa Barbara, he spent 21 / 2 years tramping the mountainous areas of Nepal on a Peace Corps assignment. From 1976 to 1978 he attended the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, getting a Master's degree in Wildlife Biology. His research on mountain goats, carried out in the hills and glaciers above Juneau, was a natural development out of some studies started earlier on the blue sheep in Nepal.
Joe loved Alaska and had been after Betty and me to visit him in Fairbanks. We finally worked out some plans for the end of summer, 1978, which involved a week of hiking and hunting and it was decided that I would go without Betty. I knew we would be in the Brooks Range and that the Dall sheep were involved, but beyond that I knew nothing of what Joe had in store for me. This was Joe's idea and his were the arrangements.
I did learn that it would be a good idea if I brought my backpack, loaded with provisions, and some money. I also learned that a hunting permit for me would run ~$3OO, so I decided that this time I'd let Joe do the hunting and I'd take the pictures. This also solved the gun problem. Joe had an antique but adequate rifle he'd been given by his grandfather. I'd have had to borrow or buy a gun, so I took along our Minolta instamatic instead.
It seems that Pan Am runs a round trip 747 service during the summer between Fairbanks and Honolulu, with intermediate stops at Seattle and Portland. Late Monday evening, August 28, I found myself waiting in a deserted Seattle airport for this flight, having checked my gear through in San Francisco. While watching some returning Alaskans try to check in an antique steamer trunk, I got the distinct impression that the Pan Am people didn't consider this flight very important and the passengers even less so. The trip to Fairbanks, however, was uneventful and quite comfortable since there was a considerable amount of open space conducive to snoozing.
We got in to Fairbanks about 11 PM and Joe met my plane. The shock came shortly thereafter. My bag showed up but the backpack never did! All that preparation was apparently to be for naught. We filed a claim but the agent was very pessimistic about getting any results before Wednesday. I learned from Joe that we were due to leave Wednesday morning for Barter Island, north of the Brooks Range on the Beaufort Sea. Obviously we had some work to do before then!
Joe had Tata Ringberg's car because the starter on his VW bus was acting up. He had just driven it back from Juneau and claimed that it always did this after a long trip. I was even more concerned when I learned that he and Tata had five flat tires on the trip!
We drove out to the house that Joe and Tata were constructing on some property just north of the University of Alaska campus off Yankovich Road. Things were still very unsettled, but Tata had concocted an excellent stew for our supper over a Coleman stove. I was pretty well bushed by this time, but we got on speaking terms again over coffee. I learned that Joe had planned for us to spend the next day getting geared up for our trip. He assured me that, if necessary, he could supply all our needs from equipment stored at the university, though it would involve some heavy scrounging if my pack didn't show up. We would be flying south from Barter Island in a small plane into the Northeastern part of the Brooks Range. He'd heard that there had been six inches of snow in that area the previous week so we should be prepared for all eventualities.
When you travel through time zones, eating at irregular intervals, it tends to upset your system. My new experiences and the prospect of heading into unknown territory 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle were slightly overwhelming. Before falling asleep, I resolved to tell Joe that we should limit our stay to less than a week. I wanted to get back to civilization in one piece.
The next morning dawned clear and crisp and I rose early and went for a jog. I have done this in many parts of the world and find it an excellent way to see the country and orient myself to new surroundings. I immediately found a number of ski trails, which made natural jogging paths. One of these came through the trees on Joe's place and lead to a larger trail in back of the property. This was marked with the symbol of a racing skier. The ground was springy, making for excellent jogging. I passed an elderly gentleman out for a walk with his dog and he nodded his approval.
The trail led to a cleared area where there were green lawns and substantial houses on concrete foundations. In these places there was probably no permafrost, owing to the southern exposure, but later Joe showed me houses which had settled a foot or more as the permafrost melted.
Tata and Joe's cabin had been built in a wooded area on permafrost and had been elevated on risers to prevent melting of the subsoil. The house was constructed of 8 by 8's laid parallel and mortised at the ends. It was two stories and of a very substantial character though modest in size. The front was windowless, but the sides and back had windows of the casement type. The front stairs led to a small porch with a massive front door to the left leading into a vestibule. This opened into a large single room occupying the whole downstairs, except for an open staircase on the inside adjoining the vestibule. Upstairs there was an anteroom leading to two bedrooms with ample closets, framed but as yet unfinished.
At that time the anteroom was serving as the living and eating area. The downstairs was unfurnished except for two stoves, one oil-fired and the other a wood burner. It turned out that one of our primary objectives for the day was to get a chimney installed so that the stoves could be used. The house was not uncomfortable yet, but the nights were already cool enough that the attraction of a wood fireplace was considerable.
Unused lumber was stacked downstairs and outside the cabin was the table saw used by the carpenter. It was apparent that the builders had only just left the scene. I thought they had done a creditable job, though Joe and Tata had a number of obvious complaints about the workmanship.
The cabin was on Tata's property. One hundred feet to the west in a clump of birch, on Joe's property, several tents had been set up and here Joe and Tata had been living all summer. We packed up one of these tents - a light blue and orange nylon affair - for our trip.
After breakfast, our first stop was the University of Alaska. The natural sciences building was located on a hill above the rest of the campus and was an imposing but utilitarian structure with all the requirements of a first class lab facility. It appears that an untold number of graduate students used the building as home base while roughing it in tents or cabins nearby. Joe and I used it for a bathroom, phone booth and refrigerator as well as a storeroom for excess clothing and other goods. It was rumored that the man who supplied water to outlying cabins, such as Tata's, from a tank truck may have loaded up his truck at the university. This I was not able to confirm.
We located enough spare clothing for me in case my pack did not arrive and I tried on a pair of boots Joe had inherited from a fellow grad student, They seemed to fit and I thought they would do in a "pinch."
We had started Joe's VW bus with a push in the morning and he had parked it on a slight grade in case the starter would not work. This turned out to be a good thing as we ended up pushing the car. I talked Joe into an experiment consisting of engaging the starter while the car was in motion, assuming that the problem was one of loosening and lubricating the engaging spring and gear. Whether or not this was indeed the case, we did not have any further problem with the starter while I was in Fairbanks.
We next stopped at the Forest Service headquarters to consult with several of the young rangers there. They were recent graduates of the same program Joe was in and apparently spent much of their time in airplanes surveying conditions in remote areas of Alaska. Our primary contact had just returned from a trip to Prudhoe Bay and reported good goose hunting in the area. We were interested in the Arctic National Wildlife Range, further east near the Canadian border, and he described to us a possible camping site on the Hulahula River, stating that there was a good chance of finding Dall rams in the next canyon, which was within hiking distance. This would permit us to fly in together since a larger plane could be used and, in addition, the trip would be shorter than if we flew into a more mountainous area farther in. I told Joe my reservations about limiting the length of the trip and he stated that one week was definitely the limit. The plane service from Fairbanks to Barter Island flew only on Wednesdays.
Our morning was spent driving all over Fairbanks picking up maps, a fishing license for me, and numerous items of hardware including many sections of double walled, insulated chimney pipe. This last item required numerous stops and I got a pretty good idea of the extent of the city, which was what might be expected of a town of 50,000 inhabitants located in the plains of a remote river valley. The downtown area was a dozen blocks long and three or four blocks wide. There were no real high rise buildings and but little evidence of nightlife or large hotels. The most imposing building in town was the Federal Building, where we got our maps, and this was just off the central area and reached by a difficult to locate back street.
We spent the afternoon screwing chimney sections together, widening the hole in the floor, and making innumerable careful measurements. The problem was that the external chimney had already been set and we were faced with the problem of working down to a supporting member, which sat on the floor. We had a few inches of leeway and with luck and clever improvisation we got a satisfying installation. We then returned to the problem of my backpack.
The Natural Sciences building at the University stands on a bluff overlooking the plains of the Tanana River. It was now late afternoon and to the south, snow covered mountains spread their lengthening shadows. On the furthest horizon an obviously imposing mountain could be seen and Joe pointed it out to me as Denali (Mt. McKinley).
We again retreated to Joe's room on the fourth floor where a phone call to Pan Am convinced us that our preparations had better begin in earnest. The rest of the evening was spent sorting out clothing, purchasing provisions, and getting our gear in shape for the flight north in the morning. I was so tired that I fell asleep falling into bed.
We rose early the next morning. There was a hint of rain in the air but nothing that would delay our flight. After a hearty breakfast we headed for the airport in the VW with Tata following in the Datsun. We checked in at Wien Air Alaska and all was in order. Joe's rifle was in a special cardboard case and had to be registered separately. I had a pistol in my pack with some ammunition and we said nothing and they asked no questions. Our baggage was not unusual for this flight.
My own pack had still not arrived and Tata agreed to check on its status periodically. After a half-hour wait we were led out to our plane, a De Havilland Otter with about thirty seats and a large baggage area in the front where we could see large objects tied and lashed. The rain had stopped and the sun was breaking through.
The flight was uneventful. Up to the Yukon River the view was clear and we could see large stretches of the North Slope pipeline right-of-way along our route, which to this point was hilly and wooded but not particularly mountainous. The Yukon appeared as a vast delta through an alluvial plain, although we were far from any outlet. I snapped pictures like I had more film than I knew what to do with. As we moved north over the lower fringes of the Brooks Range, the cloud cover increased and I turned my attention to the other occupants of the airplane.
There were several Eskimo families who looked as though they had been on a shopping spree in Fairbanks. One fairly imposing gentleman in a dark suit looked like a man of some authority and I speculated that he might be the mayor of Kaktovik. The two men in outdoor clothing ahead of us were obviously hunters or fishermen. There were a few other men I couldn't identify but later learned that they worked for the army at the DEW line station on Barter Island.
As we neared the coastal plain or "North Slope" the clouds broke free and I could see imposing mountains down below, dark in hue, and heavily glaciated. They were the Romanzoff Mountains, which were our ultimate destination. I was glad to see sunshine on the mountaintops though the valleys were still covered with clouds. Gradually these broke up and, as we came out over the North Slope, Joe and I spotted two rivers flowing north, which could only have been the Hulahula and the Sadlerochit. The flat areas were very moist and the ground broke into the familiar hexagon pattern of the northern tundra. Far below, a group of white specks appeared and as they all broke off at once in their movement, we realized that they were snow geese flying in formation.
The Beaufort Sea was soon beneath us and we could see the large, circular white horns of the DEW line Station on Barter Island in the distance. Soon houses became visible then a landing strip, which was on a sand spit at the far eastern end of the island. As we disembarked, the wind from the north came right through our clothing and we sought shelter in the lee of the hanger where the sun warmed us up a bit. I was dressed in a heavy woolen sweater with a big hole in the sleeve and I pulled on a windbreaker and some gloves.
Joe immediately found a friend from the University and they greeted each other gleefully. Martha had spent the summer in a camp somewhere up the Sadlerochit observing the habits of musk oxen and was about to leave on the return flight to Fairbanks. An attractive, heavyset girl of genial disposition, she was obviously well acquainted with most of the people at the airport. A good cook, apparently, there were many references to her baked goods, which had been sampled by most, if not all, of the inhabitants of Kaktovik.
The process of unloading the baggage began and what an assortment appeared! Guns, chairs, suitcases of all descriptions and a large quantity of supplies for the Army Base. We picked up our packs, Joe's gun and the large duffel bag of supplies and Martha showed us where to wait for Walter Audi, our bush pilot. Sure enough, the other hunters from our flight were waiting there already. Walt was out on some mission and would be back shortly. We stashed our gear and went back to join the loading party where Martha, Joe and several other young men began comparing notes on their research projects. It was comforting to know we were not among strangers, although I did note that the Eskimos seemed a little aloof from all except Martha, who was greeted by one and all alike.
Martha knew Walt Audi very well, having flown with him in and from her camp on the Sadlerochit. When he finally did arrive at the airport, he taxied his two-seater up to a couple of oil drums filled with concrete to which he lashed the wings. Martha took us over and introduced us. Walt agreed with our plans and agreed that he could land his two-seater on the gravel bank that Joe described so that the two of us could go in together. The other hunters were going further in, requiring the use of the single-seater, so Walt thought he'd take us in first. He gassed up the plane from his own special storage area of tanks and drums.
The gear went in first, stashed carefully into the rear so that the two sleeping bags made a comfortable seat, serviced by a safety strap. Joe took this seat and I climbed into the copilot's seat, squeezing in behind the wheel and avoiding the ailerons with my feet. As I climbed in I noted the biting wind from the north, though the sun was bright and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was 2:30 PM.
We took off to the east and circled the island, retracing our route coming in but at a much lower altitude, and I could get a good feel for the size of Kaktovik. There was one main street south, ending at a second, larger street which took off in a westerly direction. A number of short cross streets led down to docks on the bay formed by the sandstrip and airstrip and we noted several good sized outboards tied up at the docks. Two streets in from the bay, we spotted the largest building in town, which we presumed to be the school. There were perhaps forty houses in all.
As we crossed the tundra, Walt took off his earphones and began pointing out some of the highlights down below. I noted the thermometer just outside the cabin door was in the 70's and I began to wish I had fewer clothes on. Martha had told Walt of our interest in seeing musk oxen, so we followed the right hand stream, the Sadlerochit, up to where it went through a rise and headed up a canyon. We saw none of the oxen and Walt speculated that they may have moved further west.
Walt banked the plane and we passed over rounded foothills, brown in color, coming over into the next valley and the Hulahula River. It wound back and forth in snake-like patterns in a rocky streambed, perhaps a quarter mile across. As we approached the first range of mountains, we came out over a bluff and Walt pointed out where he would land the airplane. It was one of the gravel bars on the west side where the stream hugged the opposite bank.
Circling to lose altitude, we came low over the bluff again and dropped suddenly onto the gravel. It was a rough landing but no problem for Walt and we came bouncing to a stop a few hundred feet from the river. We unloaded quickly and, before we knew it, Walt was taxiing back to the bluff for a takeoff. As it came back toward us, Joe snapped a picture of me with the plane just rising from the gravel. It quickly disappeared down the river and we were on our own.
THE HULAHULA RIVER
The gravel bank itself was no place to camp - the rocks were 2 to 4 inches in diameter - but we spotted a sandy bank under the bluff a few hundred yards upstream and we headed for it. This was a good spot. We would be right on the water but the sand bank rose several feet so we shouldn't be flooded and it was right under the bluff, which should supply some shelter.
Joe is several inches shorter that I but is quite muscular and a very hardy individual. He shouldered his pack and the large duffel bag and quickly trudged up to our campsite, while I struggled behind with my pack and the gun. I was pleasantly surprised to find the air temperature moderate and the sun warm.
There was no sign of snow except in the mountains to the south and one large snowbank under the bluff a quarter mile across the river. We smoothed out a place in the sand and Joe quickly set about putting up the tent. This was of Norwegian design, light and easy to manage. The rainfly came down to the ground at both ends and made a covered area for storage, cooking and other needs. I've never seen a better design for a light, mountain tent. Its only problem was that, in the winds we might experience, the stakes might pull loose and cause it to sag.
We got things in order and decided there would be time for some fishing before dinner. Upstream, the Hulahula hugged our bank (the west bank) for much of its course. Occasionally, it meandered out to the center and, when it did, a backwater was created that looked ideal for a lurking fish. We eased our way up the riverbank, hugging the bluff, and soon came to one of these deep pools, under a rocky ledge.
We both had spinning gear with Mepps lures and, as I was the first one there, I cast first. As I drew the lure across the channel, I felt a strong resistance. I probably acted too excitedly, scrambling down to a low spot and dragging the fish with me but, despite this, I soon landed a fine 18" arctic char. This fish is a close relative of the Dolly Varden trout and has the typical, rose colored spots of a speckled trout. A handsome fish.
Joe soon had one of his own but, this time, it was slightly smaller, had a more pronounced tailfin and scales. This was a grayling.
I soon found that, while Joe kept on catching fish, I was having trouble. The fish were there! If we didn't get a strike every second or third cast, we'd move on to another more productive spot. But I was losing fish, missing strikes and, occasionally, losing a lure.
Finally, Joe got me to calm down a little and play the fish and things got much better. It wasn't long before we both had a half dozen good-sized char and a couple of grayling. We figured the fish would keep all right but this would suffice for the present. I was really looking forward to some good meals on this trip!
The sun was getting low now and as we looked up at the hills to the west, we could see a number of white dots moving across the rocky areas. The binoculars confirmed that these were Dall sheep, all females, and their young. These golden brown hills began perhaps a half mile from the river and appeared quite barren, though on closer examination, it was clear that there was a lot of low growth of a scrubby nature. The hills rolled on and on, leading up to more massive, darker forms in the background. Beyond, and to the south, rose an imposing mountain, which we identified from our map as Mount Chamberlin. As we searched the hills, more and more of the white specks came into view but Joe stated quite firmly that they were all females. The big horned Dall rams had obviously retreated further back into the range.
According to our map, we had camped just south of the Kikitat River, a branch of the Hulahula which offered a route in the direction of Mount Chamberlin via a couple of lakes, Lake Schroeder and Lake Peters. But our goal was in the opposite direction to the east. Over there we could see the white faced peak of Mount Michelson but not much else, our view being blocked by a massive hill, which came down to the edge of the Hulahula on the opposite bank. This hill sloped off gradually to the north and, opposite the juncture with the Kikitat, it appeared that several small streams led up into a box canyon.
Turning back to the south, the view to the far distance was imposing indeed; a mass of snowy peaks, dark and heavily glaciated. None were more imposing, however, than the nearby Mounts Chamberlin and Michelson, which rose like sentinels above the canyon of the river upstream.
Returning to our camp, we crossed an area of soft sand containing many tracks. We got the distinct impression that some of these were quite new and thought we could identify caribou, wolf and bear tracks. I climbed to the top of the riverbank to look around but saw nothing but tundra. When we got back to the camp, Joe started test shooting the rifle to see how far the sights were off the mark. I took out the pistol, loaded it and tried a little target practice myself. The sound was reassuring, as it ricocheted through the hills and a puff appeared on the bluff about six inches above where I had aimed.
Two of the arctic char were put into boiling water for our dinner and I've never had a better meal anywhere. Coming in by plane, we were able to bring such delicacies as fresh fruits and vegetables, which I normally leave behind on pack trips. We had enough freeze dried food for later so we ate heartily now. The char was salmon in color but somewhat more tender than a salmon and more delicate in flavor.
With the setting of the sun, a wind came up and we moved inside the tent, setting up our foam pads and sleeping bags for a good rest. Joe brought the camp stove inside the fly of the tent and we secured things for the night. It was still daylight outside at 10:30 p.m. but we were ready for sleep. Before dozing off, I resolved to try to wake up during the night and take a look around.
Following the call of nature, I rose about 1:30 am and went outside. It was dark now and the stars were out but there was a reddish glow on the horizon to the north in the direction of Kaktovik. Looking up, I found the pole star almost overhead and the sky was dominated by the milky way and the constellations of the bears. But the most fascinating sight of all was the aurora borealis. Whereas, in Fairbanks, this covered the northern half of the sky with shimmering streaks and wisps of light, here the display was directly overhead or even to the south. Fascinated, I watched the lights move and play but decided not to wake Joe. In Fairbanks, he had informed me that the aurora was not worth watching unless it took on colors. This was a spectacular display but it was all a silvery white.
At dawn the next morning it was cold but clear and we breakfasted in the tent on fresh rolls and jelly, eggs and arctic char. Joe had obviously been doing some serious thinking and had our schedule for the week all planned. Today, we would reconnoiter to the east. That meant crossing the river.
THE ESETUK GLACIER
We took one pack with some provisions and extra clothing. Joe took the gun and I took the camera and we scouted the best route across the river. Back where the plane had landed, the riverbed was a half-mile wide and the stream split into a series of channels, mostly wide and shallow.
With our boots and pants dangling around our necks, we started across in our undersocks. It was like walking into the Yukon just as the ice breaks up. By the time I got across 30 feet of this my toes were numb. Fortunately, at this point we stepped out onto sand and wended our way across the sandbar, carefully avoiding gravel, as best we could, since it was painful on half frozen feet.
A dozen such stream crossings and we were nearing the eastern bank of the river. Only one rather wide and rather deep section of river lay ahead. This time the water managed to reach our underwear but I managed to work my way across, flopped down on a rock and tried to wiggle my toes. The sun was well up in the sky now and that helped. We quickly geared up to climb the bluff and then on up the hill we had seen from our campsite across the river.
Joe led the way as we traversed the slope. Despite his moderate height, he is a robust young man who could trek for hours without showing any sign of fatigue. As a pole-vaulter in high school, he used to compete despite knee problems common to the sport. Later, my kids and I took a hike up Mount Whitney together, starting at Constellation Lake on a moonlit evening. Joe insisted that we might need water on top and carried a 5-gallon plastic container of water all the way to the summit.
In college at Santa Barbara, he started out in Chemical Engineering (like his Dad did at Princeton) but quickly switched to the biological sciences. Jack Myers, chairman of the Chemical Engineering department, still asks about him every time I meet him at AIChE Meetings. Joe survived the Isla Vista riots during the turbulent late 60's, graduated and sought out the Peace Corps, which was looking for environmental biologists to help establish a National Park System in Nepal. From the pictures he sent back home, it was obvious that he spent a great deal of time at elevations over 10,000 feet.
Naturally, with this background, Joe had developed muscles in the right places as well as a luxuriant red beard, which completed the picture of a true mountain man. He also had a wide knowledge of the natural scene and was able to name for me most of the low shrubs that we were passing. These consisted of willows, birch and evergreens, usually not more than a foot high but occasionally larger where a creek or spring blocked our way.
After about an hour of this climbing, we came over the top of the slope to a bench, beyond which the hill rose to a barren shale covered peak. Several female sheep were outlined against the sky at the top of the hill and, at the bottom across the bench, a yearling sheep was grazing.
We headed across the bench and I got my first taste of walking across tundra. The bench looked like a grassy field from a distance but we soon found ourselves hopping from hummock to hummock, criss-crossed by small pools and streams. As we approached, the yearling looked up and I took a picture as he headed up the hill and over the crest.
We followed sheep trails on up the shale-covered slope to the south and, as we rounded the hill under the crest, came upon the most magnificent vista. The ground sloped away to the southeast several thousand feet down into a green vale where the band of female sheep and their young had retreated, then rose sharply toward the dark gray eminence that was Mount Michelson, several miles away. The peak was draped in a mantle of ermine where several massive glaciers flowed down to the north. The nearest arm of these flowed in our direction down from the mountain, then headed north and stopped even with our position and about a mile away. Between us and the glacier was a field of enormous rocks.
We sat down on the sunny slope for a lunch of dried fruit and cheese but noted with some concern that a cloudbank had built up over Mount Michelson. It wasn't long after we started up that we found that we were in for a shower.
We picked our way across a strange field of broken rock and came soon to the large boulders we had seen from a distance. By this time the shower had started and we took shelter under one of the boulders, pulling ponchos over our packs and ourselves. I wondered if we would have to set up a camp here later on.
We were at the head of an enormous plain that stretched five miles off to the north. Far in the distance, the Beaufort Sea could be seen gleaming in sunlight. The rain lasted twenty minutes, then the clouds blew off to the west and the sun came out again and quickly dried us as we headed off in the direction of the glacier. A half-mile of easy going and suddenly the rocks dropped away and we looked at a magnificent river of snow and ice perhaps 500 feet below us. Joe had already disappeared over the rim looking for sheep. I pondered the best way down. It was apparent to both of us later, over a chocolate bar and a drink of water, that our best bet was to the north where the glacier came to an abrupt halt at the head of a long moraine. A slide led down to the beginnings of a stream, which looked fairly easy to manage. At that point we scanned the mountain for sign of sheep, saw none, and headed down the slide, following sheep trails. The way became quite steep and we did plenty of sliding ourselves. I wondered how we were going to get back up.
Once at the bottom, we were again among large boulders, tumbled there by the glacier. While the moraine had looked from above like little more than a child's seashore sand creation, we found ourselves climbing a fifty-foot wall of chiseled, craggy boulders, then down a slope again to the streambed. This was the Esetuk Glacier and we were at the source of the Esetuk River, leading northward into the Hulahula River some 10 miles downstream. While the sun was warm, a cold blast of air came down on us from the immense bed of ice to the south. The stream, at this point, was a series of small springs and rivulets and we hopped gingerly across.
Proceeding north, the stream quickly gained momentum and became a roiling current of silty gray water, which we followed through a narrow canyon looking for a way up the eastern side of the esker. At this point, the gorge opened up and, mindful of some way of avoiding the slide we had come down, I noted a green swath up the western side. I suggested that we work our way in that direction but Joe thought we should climb the eastern side immediately and assess the lay of the land.
This proved a disappointment for we soon found ourselves on another arm of the mountain that led no way but up. We could see more glaciers and another bench beyond but, at that point, decided to turn back to camp. Coming back down to the Esetuk River, we pulled out our maps and argued the best way back. I felt that we should try the green swath, keeping well to the north of our previous route. Not having any better suggestion, Joe agreed. We were able to navigate the river in part by jumping rocks but, finally, took off our boots and forded the last section.
The green swath was indeed climbable, via footholds and handholds, but the slope was close to vertical and our feet were truly dragging as we finally trudged over the crest and onto the rocky plain above. Getting our bearings quickly, we decided to head for a gap in the hills ahead of us that should put us a little a little north of our campsite on the Hulahula. We could see the boulders to our left where we had sought shelter from the rain, though we were well north of this on that vast plain of high tundra we had seen from further up the mountain.
Joe had been carrying the gun through all of this exploration and, as we neared the gap in the hills, we decided to cache the gun and pick it up when we returned the next day. We then headed down the slope, finding ourselves in a most delightful upland valley between two formidable shale-lined peaks. Female sheep, grazing in the valley, retreated up these slopes as we approached.
Proceeding down the valley, a stream appeared from under the rocks. We followed this until the way opened up into a broad high plain, from the edge of which we finally could see the Hulahula River, perhaps 1500 feet below. As we expected, we were now north of our campsite. The sun was low on the horizon, heading north, but we had ample time to work our way down the slope on a long traverse, ford the river and drop, exhausted, into our sleeping bags.
As we ate our supper lying in our bags and, before we fell asleep, we outlined our plans. It was obvious that, if we wanted to travel still further to the east, we needed a second campsite. The secluded valley we had just come through, with the underground stream, seemed an ideal location. It should only take us a half-day to get there, so we would have ample time to secure our first camp and set up another.
THE HIGH CAMP
The next morning was again sunny and we lazed around for a time digesting our breakfast of peaches, salmon, eggs, bacon, pilot bread and jelly. We would be on stricter rations for awhile, so we had eaten heartily.
We knew there were grizzly bears in the area. Their tracks downstream were obvious, though we had not actually seen a bear. We set about, therefore, to cache our food and extra equipment in a way that would be as unobtrusive as possible. The perishables were buried in cold, wet sand by the river, setting some heavy rocks on top. The other provisions, ones that we weren't taking with us, were put in the duffel bag and buried half way up the bluff. As we broke camp, our eyes roved across the river and up the slope we had come down yesterday. The sun was rapidly warming things up. The night before, we had found some sizeable branches to serve as walking sticks and had located a somewhat more favorable route across the stream. All this made our forthcoming venture across the icy cold Hulahula slightly more palatable.
Nevertheless, crossing with forty pound packs on our backs was a new challenge. Boots dangling around our necks, we steadied ourselves with our poles and avidly searched out the path of least resistance. In our concentration we lost track of time and, before we knew it, we were sitting on the opposite bank, warming and drying our frozen feet,.
We had arrived at a small gully containing brush of substantial size. This, I suspected, was where our balancing poles had come from. On reflection, we saw that they were of a size and shape that indicated human input. Someone, undoubtedly, had been here before us. We saw no other such evidence throughout our entire stay in the Wildlife Range.
It was about 11 a.m. as we started our traverse up the slope. The sun was warm but the air was still a little nippy - good weather for climbing. Last night we had cut southerly across the bench at the top before heading down and had run into a lot of soggy tundra, so we took a more northerly route now up the slope, aiming more closely to the creek coming down out of the valley above. This creek slipped out from between sentinel rocks, visible from across the river but now hidden from our view.
Despite our efforts, we had arrived about halfway down the bench toward the rocks we were aiming for. These appeared, at some distance, like hulking animals grazing the tundra. Somewhat disappointed, we headed off across the soggy tundra, taking advantage of a high mound in the center before slogging across to the rock-lined creek.
Actually, crossing the tundra, even with heavy packs on our backs, was not an impossible task. With careful attention, it was always possible for us to find a route that permitted us to stride easily from hummock to hummock. After this we did not avoid the soggy areas. This might not be a good rule in midsummer. Early September was probably the ideal time to be doing this.
It was also ideal in several other respects. There were absolutely no insects around to pester us, after the frost of the previous week, and the weather was magnificent. We basked in sunshine as we bathed our feet in the pure clear water of the running stream. The wind was a little nippy but it was obvious that we would be quite warm when we resumed hiking. We stripped down to our underwear to resume our climb.
Our way now became relatively easy, following sheep trails along the creek or across the rocky surface of the valley. We were well into the valley now and our goal was obvious; a lovely, green alpine bench at its head. Just beyond this, the valley floor rose to form a box canyon. We knew that the slope was not difficult to climb and that we had an ideal location.
Arriving at our goal in midafternoon, there was time to search for the best campsite. Several spots looked good from a distance but turned out to be either too wet or too uneven. We compromised, finally, on a reasonably level spot covered with heath, which should cushion us enough to sleep on. The stream ran underground here and we could hear it rushing through boulders down below. It was a good five feet below us but I'm sure that, in the early summer, it would overflow our campsite. A small tributary ran aboveground perhaps thirty feet upstream and this served as our water source.
We had barely finished our meal when Joe set out carrying the pistol and following the creek upstream to find the rifle. I decided to rest in camp but, finally, couldn't resist the temptation to climb to the top myself. I soon found myself again on that immense, grassy upland plain. Female sheep were grouped all about but there was no indication of any rams. Directly to the east, I thought I could spot the gully where, only yesterday, we had climbed up from the Esetuk River. In the opposite direction, the sun was moving northward under a band of clouds along the horizon at a speed that was clearly noticeable.
When I got back down to camp, the sun had set and Joe arrived shortly thereafter with the rifle. It turned out that the ground under our tent was decidedly uneven but we both slept like logs all night.
Next morning, the sun was still hidden by the hill and our down jackets were very welcome. Joe soon had us warmed up, however, using the gasoline cookstove in the vestibule formed by the flap of the inner tent and the rainfly. This practice could be dangerous without adequate ventilation and we were always careful to provide that. As a result, we were able to prepare and eat breakfast in relative comfort. I was stiff from lying with my hip in a depression but otherwise fit and ready to go on.
Securing the camp, we took off, each with a nearly empty pack, ready to carry back the sheep if Joe shot one. Once at the top we headed directly across the meadow toward the ravine that I had spotted the previous night. The going was marshy but we saved many steps this way. About two thirds the way across, a most distressing thing occurred. As I leapt across a soggy island to dry land, I felt part of my left shoe stayed behind. Sure enough, the tread of the shoe, including the heel had come loose and I was left with nothing but the innersole.
This took some serious thought. A man in the wilderness is at the mercy of his feet. I had taken good care of mine so far and had no problems. How long could I expect to go on with only the inner sole? I had left a pair of running shoes back at the high camp that I used for relaxation. Should I go back and get them? We finally decided to risk it and go ahead. I found that I could manage the boot, except that the bottom was slippery and offered less protection from sharp rocks. The effort of walking was greater.
Proceeding on to the depression that marked our way down to the river, the way became strewn with large glacial boulders, flat and easy to cross. The ground started to fall off rapidly and we were maneuvering ourselves down what amounted to a vertical sheep trail. The river, at this time of the morning, was still low and we were able to jump across from rock to rock. Once across, we found ourselves climbing an almost-vertical slope up the other side.
We kept to the right, which turned out to be much steeper but Joe wanted us to get above any rams that might be on the plateau above. It turned out there were none so we angled to the left, across a shale covered plain, headed towards a small creek which ran down from high meadows up ahead.
Evidence of caribou now became abundant. There were none here now but this was the summering ground of the Porcupine herd, which migrates here annually from the Porcupine River in Canada. Several pair of antlers lay strewn about and I retrieved a small piece of one as a souvenir.
Dropping down, we crossed the creek and headed up the meadow towards a large, black hill towering up ahead. As we moved upward, more distant hills came into view and we searched them for sheep, to no avail. Higher yet, the scenery became awesome. Mount Michelson was, by now, directly to our south and new glaciers, only hinted at before, came into view. These formed a massive fist with snowy fingers running off to the north at various angles. One of these stopped just short of the dark hill we had set as our goal. The reflected sunlight from that vast snowpile contrasted surrealistically with the shadowy hill up ahead.
It was mid-afternoon when we got near the top and found ourselves on a saddle under the hill leading down in to another valley to the north. As yet we had seen no sheep but that dark pile of shale looked to be ideal sheep country. Coming over the saddle cautiously, we expected to see some rams at any time. If we didn't, we'd have to write off that part of our expedition as a failure.
In some disgust, we backtracked up the slope to our left, also promising, but which we had thoroughly scoured from below. Coming out on a flat ledge, perhaps a hundred yards across, we left our packs by a snowbank and headed for the rim. This was high country and the Beaufort Sea was clearly visible in the distance. We couldn't see much else until we got to the edge and looked down.
We had come out at the head of a box canyon leading north toward the tundra of the North Slope. Below us, the headwall of the canyon dropped dramatically, 1000 feet or so, to the valley floor. A small creek headed down the right hand side of the canyon to an eventual confluence with the Hulahula River in the far distance. Suddenly, our attention became riveted to the headwall itself.
Perhaps 500 feet below us, on a rocky outcropping that commanded a view of the entire canyon, sat a magnificently horned sentinel ram. A few other rams could be spotted around the slope but this fellow dominated the scene in his solitary splendor. He had no indication of our presence.
While I was still taking all of this in, my son suddenly disappeared over the rim with his rifle. Personally, I would have gone back to the saddle and worked my way around the headwall but Joe was nothing if not direct. The way down at first looked vertical but there were rocks and shrubs giving a handhold.
There was nothing I could do but wait and the time seemed an eternity. Peering over the rim, I could see the sentinel ram but nothing else without risking being seen myself. Finally, the ram stood up, sensing something amiss and a remarkable process began. Dall sheep, all rams, began appearing out of nowhere, slowly working their way across the headwall toward my left, to the point where it joined the sidewall of the canyon. Along the line of the juncture an overhang formed and, into the depression, below this the sheep disappeared one by one, leaving only a few sentinels.
This crevice and its overhang led all the way up to the top of the headwall, perhaps a quarter mile to my left. I wondered whether I could get myself into this crevice and force the sheep back towards Joe. There was a substantial rise in the cliff to this point, however, and I was forced to retrace my steps across the ledge and skirt the backside of the hill to get there.
This was real sheep country. The slope was unconsolidated shale with trails cutting across in proper sheep fashion, with hollowed out resting-places at frequent intervals. The slope here was easy but, when I came over the crest above the sheep, I found the trail too precipitous to maneuver. As least I thought so at the time. I tossed some rocks over the overhang but the sheep were too far below to notice.
I returned to the ledge to find Joe, who had worked his way back up to the saddle. We both agreed that it was too late to do anything more that afternoon. I led Joe back across the shale slope to the vantage point where the two walls joined and then we started back to camp.
It was about 6 p.m. when we started down a grassy slope leading toward the Esetuk valley. A small rivulet appeared running down the center of the slope and we stopped for a drink and some cheese and bread from our packs, which we had retrieved. It was an idyllic scene. In contrast to the brown hills all around us, this moist slope, at 5000 feet with its southern exposure, was just entering its brief period of springtime. The afternoon sun was still warm and ptarmigan darted here and there feeding on the new growth. We could easily have snared a few for supper had we wanted.
Instead, we rose and were on our way again, making good time downhill. My problem was that the exposed innersole of my left boot was slipping and I had to watch my step. I found myself moving in crabwise fashion always coming down hard on my right foot.
A half mile of this downward traverse and we were in the valley where we crossed the creek and headed across the rocky ledge to the escarpment overlooking the Esetuk. At this point we were well downstream of where we had come up but the way was clear and we soon stood next to the river, which had risen considerably during the day. It had many branches and we crossed it by leaping from rock to rock. The last section, however, was too broad to jump so we removed our boots and pants and prepared to wade across. Joe made it across but, when my turn came, the onrushing current, my ungainly load and one slippery rock proved too much and in I tumbled. My God, that water was cold!
Fortunately, the backpack had only partially submerged; my pants and a spare jacket were reasonably dry. I had to wring out my socks, however, before pulling them back on. Neither of us was looking forward to the climb ahead but I was in no mood to stand around thinking about it. We plodded up the slope one step at a time with frequent rest stops. It became a near vertical climb at about 800 feet, through and around grassy tussocks and low shrubs. The footing was reasonably good but I found the left shoe to be a great hindrance. Every step with that foot had to be carefully set and tested for security.
I set down these details to give some idea of my state of exhaustion, which was severe. Joe had the heavy gun to carry, which was a great hindrance though he never indicated this but rather was solicitous on my behalf.
We finally did make it to the top. The slope lessened, the way became rocky and we were out again on the high meadow tundra with the sun still setting in front of us. In another half-hour we were across the meadow and peering down at our tent. Despite the fact that it was now after 9 p.m. and the sun had set, there was still enough light to negotiate the slope without a flashlight.
As we ate a brief dinner in our sleeping bags, we thought about the next few days. Tomorrow would be Sunday and we should be back to our Hulahula campground by Monday evening to make sure of a Wednesday morning pickup. Sunday would be our last chance for a sheep.
OLD MAN CREEK
Despite our weariness, we both slept well and woke refreshed and ready for another trip to "sheep canyon". We left camp about 8:30, with much the same gear as before, except that I brought along my running shoes as a backup. It was another clear day, not a cloud in the sky. We followed our route of the night before and noontime found us lunching with the ptarmigan by that same mountain rill.
Working our way over the talus slopes to the escarpment, we cautiously peered over the edge and saw no sign of the rams. I suggested checking the crevice where I had last seen them. Joe was first to the edge and he let out an expletive! The rams were in a pack all the way across the valley in a ravine on the lower slopes of the dark talus hill beyond the saddle. It would take us another hour to reach them.
Our way led down and across the saddle to a point where Joe left me with both packs and firm instructions to keep out of sight and out of mischief until he gave me a signal that he needed help. I presumed that he then expected me to come down with the packs ready to load with the hindquarters of his prey.
Joe edged his way along Old Man Creek, a stream that began a short way down the slope but shortly turned to his right in a traverse. He disappeared over a glacial moraine, reappeared for a time, then disappeared around the curve of the hill. As best I could figure it, the sheep should be just over the hogback ridge I could see coming up from the valley below. Joe was trying to get behind them.
I may have let my imagination take over but after about half an hour, I heard Joe calling to come on over. I could well imagine he was going to need some help in the way of a decoy if he was ever to get close enough for a shot. In fact, I had made this suggestion several times and had never gotten more than a grunt in return. At any rate, I cached the backpacks and loaded up with a few essentials, including the Minolta, which I carefully put in my rear pocket. I had taken some spectacular shots and thought I might top that off with a close-up of the sheep. I also took off my boots and put on my running shoes.
It was not hard to follow Joe's trail. I dipped over the moraine where he did and then just tried to maintain the same altitude as I traversed the talus slope. Several times it was obvious where Joe had slipped on the shale, causing a small landslide and an indentation. Shortly, I was approaching the ridge and called out softly several times.
Finally, Joe's head appeared and he told me in no uncertain terms to "shut up". He claimed not to have called out at all but, at the same time, he was very concerned as to how to approach the sheep without scaring them off. I peered cautiously over the edge and found, to my astonishment, that the sheep were still a quarter mile away on a ridge beyond the next gully. And by "gully", I mean a small canyon running from the valley floor up the side of the hill.
Joe was not certain whether the sheep knew we were there but we both knew that any sudden movement over our ridge would be instantly detected. Several of the rams were looking right in our direction. It was indeed a puzzlement and we ate a bite of lunch while thinking it over. Finally, Joe bought into my idea. He wanted me to descend and work my way across the lower part of the gully and come up a rocky outcropping beyond where the sheep were resting. This might cause them to migrate in his direction. I should get up high enough that they would not just flee over the top of the hill.
I worked my way down the hill, still out of sight of the sheep, sliding the last 200 feet. I picked my way across a rocky, dry streambed and started up the slope beyond. I climbed until I was well above the sheep and the footing was becoming quite precarious. By this time, I'm sure the sheep saw me. I was in plain sight and, in addition, I started throwing rocks in their direction. There was a little reshuffling in position but, basically, the sheep did not move. I tried moving in their direction but the footing was not good. Except for a few rocky outcroppings, this was all unconsolidated shale, which tended to slide very easily. Finally, I heard Joe calling, "try it lower down".
With some relief, I retreated downhill until the footing became better. A sheep trail led back in the direction I wanted to go, so I followed it. I couldn't have made it in my boots but, after a few scares, I found myself on a rocky outcropping directly across a gully from the sheep. The nearest ram was only fifty feet away! I was sure they saw me but they remained where they were.
What a magnificent sight. Right before my eyes, a dozen rams sat or stood in varying degrees of attention. All of them had the distinctive horns of the Dall sheep and, on several, the horns curled round several times.
I dropped down to retrieve my camera from my rear pocket only to find to my dismay that the thing had disappeared. What a disappointment! I was devastated. I called across to Joe to see if he saw the camera back where he was. The answer came, "No, I can't find it." And then, "Could I get a shot if I came over there?"
"Sure, I said, I'll try to divert their attention."
I then proceeded to act like some sort of a nut, climbing up on the rocks to peer out at the sheep, dropping back, working my way up the outcropping, standing up in clear view, hiding. No matter what I did, they just stared across at me. Occasionally, they readjusted their positions but never did they give any indication of leaving. They seemed to know I was harmless and enjoyed the performance. When Joe arrived on the scene, I pointed out to him where he could get the best view with the least chance of being seen and dropped down to a lower level to wait for the action.
Joe had a clear shot at about 75 feet, which he should have made, but the gun was antique and the sights had not been test-stand recalibrated in a long, long time. That was indeed a mistake we later concluded. With the first shot, all the sheep started moving up the hill. Three more shots followed but I saw no sheep go down. Then they were out of range.
"Oh well" said Joe, "It was a good try but I'm afraid I should have brought a better gun." He was not particularly upset. He knew he had had his chance and it just had not worked out.
Joe crossed over to where the sheep had been and then followed the curve of the slope up to the ridge. I retraced my steps down to the valley as well as I could, looking for that darn camera. I was near the bottom and Joe was almost to the top of the ridge, when I noticed a medium sized ram still wandering around on the hill above me. Joe must have gone right past him. The sheep moved slowly and laid itself down in a depression. Perhaps it had been hit!
I called out to Joe, who immediately reversed direction. I headed back up the hill towards where I had seen the ram. I hadn't warned Joe that the sheep was still ambulatory and he was quite shocked when it got up ahead of him and moved away. Joe followed that ram a mile down the valley of Old Man Creek. It couldn't have been too badly hurt. Leaving a wounded animal is, of course, the worst thing you can do when hunting and, all I can say is that Joe did more than his duty in following the ram as far as he could to make sure it hadn't fallen to the ground.
I traversed the slope back to the hogback ridge. This had looked pretty tricky when Joe was doing it but I found numerous sheep trails and, even when the shale started to slide, I found I could dig in and control it. The worst part was the last 20 feet or so.
I sat down to contemplate the situation. Joe was well down the valley by now. What if he did get that ram? Our packs were up by the saddle and Joe was a mile down the canyon. I did not at all relish the idea of fetching the packs and taking them a mile down the canyon, filling them with meat and then coming back. I had difficulty even imagining the trip back to camp, especially that climb out of the ravine below the Esetuk glacier!
Putting such thoughts out of my mind, I worked my way down the ridge to meet Joe, meanwhile searching diligently for the camera as I went. I was sure by now that it must have fallen from my pocket when I was negotiating that steep slope above the sheep and I was not prepared to go back there now.
The ridge dropped down in a series of plateaus, continuing well down the valley. I stopped on the last, long plateau and waited what seemed an eternity for my son to return. Getting no response from my hollering, I tried to relax but I was beginning to get nervous.
Finally, I spotted him trudging slowly up the stream below the plateau I was on. I dropped down to meet him and we continued the long trek up to the saddle in silence. Words were not necessary and the effort to talk seemed excessive. The hour was later than the previous evening as we retraced our route back to camp. By the time we reached the Esetuk, the sun had set but there was still enough nightglow to find our way. This time I was careful to ford the stream properly, even though my mind was preoccupied with the climb up ahead.
I decided to remove my boots, which I had put on back at the saddle, and wear the running shoes. This did make the climb easier, even though it increased the weight of the pack. It seemed like hours climbing up to the ridge, stopping every few steps to catch our breath. I couldn't help wondering once again how we would have made it had our packs been full of meat.
When we got back to camp, I immediately climbed into my sleeping bag to warm up while Joe fixed us some hot soup. I had no appetite but I downed a little soup. Thinking it over later, we both concluded that I was on the verge of hypothermia.
I persuaded Joe to trade sides with me so that my hip was not in that depression and soon slept soundly. I awoke the next morning in much better shape. We had a big breakfast and discussed our plans.
By going on down today, we would have a day of rest and fishing tomorrow before our pickup on Wednesday. This sounded good and we were packed up by eleven for the hike down to our base camp.
BACK TO CIVILIZATION
This was another delightful day, sunny and warm. As we moved down the draw, ewes and their offspring appeared out of nowhere and trudged in single file up the hill to our left and on over the top. Our way was all downhill, first down the brook along a rocky defile interrupted with clumps of sedge, then across a moist meadow to the crest of the ridge. A quick drop downhill and we were on the riverbank removing our boots. A final cold ford of the river and we were back in camp in time to set up the tent and do a little fishing before dinner.
The next day started out to be sunny but a breeze came up and clouds appeared. We spent the day relaxing and fishing the river. By this time we both were experts were keeping only fish over twenty inches. Joe was anxious to fill his larder so we both took our limit of char and grayling back to camp.
As we returned, a small plane came up the river, banked above our tent and headed back north. We presumed this was Walt Audi checking us out. Actually, this was our first contact with the outside world in six days. In that time we had seen no sign of human presence other than the occasional high flying jetliner on its way over the pole to Europe and those balancing sticks we had found down by the river..
The next day was cloudy and rain seemed imminent. We broke camp early to get ready for our pickup. Even so, we were surprised when the Cessna appeared suddenly over the bluff and bounced over the gravel bank in our direction. This was not Walt but a young assistant who hurried us aboard since he had several other pickups to make after he dropped us off.
It was blustery and cold at the Barter Island airport. We were given directions by our pilot to Walt Audi's house where we would spend the night. We were pretty well loaded down as we trudged the mile into the village. We both had full packs, Joe had the gun and I had a duffel bag full of fish. The only way I could manage was to balance the bag on top of the pack, raising one arm or the other to keep it in place. Audi's place was on the near end of town and I dropped my load with relief and looked around.
I suppose that in all remote villages there is a tendency to hoard equipment. No telling when it might be useful. Walt Audi's house was well built and attractive but the yard was a complete jungle. It was mainly caribou horns but there was a little of everything else, too. Spare motors, an old refrigerator, doors, sheep horns - you name it. The weather was now cold and rain had started so we went in, put our sleeping bags in a spare bedroom and took a quick snooze.
When we got up the rain had turned to drizzle so we went out to look around. The town was not much to look at, what we had seen from the air pretty much describes it. Walt Audi's house was one of the more substantial buildings in Kaktovik, exceeded only by the schoolhouse. Every house had its share of useful or potentially useful equipment or just plain junk lying around.
We walked back the roadway leading to the airstrip, the north side of which was exposed to the sea. Out on the beach, we saw skiffs tied up and the skeletons of whales. I got to thinking, "I've only got a piece of a caribou antler as a souvenir of this adventure. I need something more." When we turned to go back, Joe helped me pull a five-foot rib off of a whale skeleton. We cleaned it up, wrapped it in a plastic bag - well taped - and I carried the thing all the way back to San Francisco.
When we got back to Audi's it was dark. Several other hunters had come in and we ate with them. Their story was interesting. One of them was sports editor for an Alaskan magazine and the two of them had been hunting Dall sheep with bows and arrows. Not only that but both of them had killed a sheep and had the horns to prove it. We decided not to tell them our story. We did have Joe's fish to show we had been well occupied.
Tata met us at the airport in Fairbanks. My backpack had come in the day after we left and I "could pick it up whenever I wanted". I simply checked it on to San Francisco. We took Joe's fish down to the freezer at the University and returned the gear I had borrowed. The boots were not worth saving.
I returned to San Francisco the next day. Betty was somewhat astonished at my whalebone but very glad to see me alive and healthy. I was very glad to see her. I cleaned that whalebone until it no longer smelled, waxed and polished it carefully and it now adorns our guest cottage. As for photographs; the only ones I have were those taken in Fairbanks. You'll just have to believe my story without them.
It is now the twentieth anniversary of our trip and I have just finished typing up my handwritten notes. I found this a wonderful experience. I relived the entire trip and could visualize the action down to the last detail.
I have wondered in the past whether I should tell others about the "sheep that got away". I have not done so but now I think that the story deserves telling. The fact that Joe spent a good two hours looking for that ram tells a lot about his character and determination. He is now Dr. Joseph L. Fox, Professor of Wildlife Studies in the Department of Biology at the University of TromsØ, Norway, and a recognized world expert on animals such as the snow leopard, blue sheep, mountain goat and the Norwegian wolverine.
The fact that those rams simply stood and watched my antics still mystifies me. I now wish we'd had the nerve to question those hunters in more detail about how they did it with a bow and arrow and share our own experience with them.
Joseph M. Fox III August, 1998.