Denali Highway 1, Moose Family 0

* The story of our family’s hunting trip!  Because you know the old saying. . . “The family that hunts together, has fun together.”  Or something like that.  Anyway if you’d like to start at the beginning of our trip, please click here. *

That night was not as cold for us.  The temperature outside was just as cold, but we pulled out the reserved sleeping bags and they gave us a little better protection from the cold.  I also set up the kids’ mattresses on extra sleeping bags, to protect them better from the cold floor of the trailer.

The Bull got up early and prepared for an early morning hunt.  I woke while he was getting ready, but I never could get back to sleep.  The children, thankfully, slept for quite a while still.  When they did wake they were happy and well rested.

While we waited for The Bull to return, I cooked up some breakfast for myself and the kids (eggs, bacon, and sliced potatoes) and we watched the “camp robber” birds (I think they are called “grey jays” try to sneak our breakfast, while we sat there!  After we’d all eaten and cleaned up, we started on a short hike up the hill.  We’d almost gotten to the top of the very short hill when we saw The Bull returning, so we turned around to hear about his morning.

He was fairly disappointed, in that he’d only seen tracks from one caribou.  He also saw a cow moose, but the trees were too thick to see much.  He guessed that the bull that the other hunter saw had moved on.  While he ate some breakfast and made coffee, the kids and I hiked up the hill to see what we could see.  “Wouldn’t it be funny,” I thought, “if we see something we can hunt right here, while The Bull just hiked several miles and saw nothing?”  This is what we saw!

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Absolutely gorgeous area!  We hiked over the tundra to the yellowish grassy area, and as we were en route we saw this . . .

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It’s a hoof print from a caribou or a moose (I couldn’t tell which) in the grass.  We also saw caribou or moose droppings.   Something had been there before us!  OK, probably days before us, but it was still a bit exciting to think of the possibility of happening on a legal caribou or moose so close to where we were camping, and me without a firearm and with three small children!

And then we found the four-wheeler trail.  Apparently this location isn’t as quiet as I had thought!  🙂

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Don’t ask me what he is doing.  I have no idea about that boy sometimes!

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Calf #2, on the way back to the campsite.  He seemed to enjoy the short hike.

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Calf #1, doing some serious exploring.  The clear spot near the top left hand corner?  That is the parking lot where we’d camped.  We weren’t far at all.

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The cutest little hiker I saw that morning!  It was very easy hiking, I didn’t need to carry her much at all.  And when I did, it was mainly to try to keep up with the boys.

We broke camp and headed back down the road, a little slower this time on account of the bumps and our bellies (mine and Calf #2’s.)  I kept a close eye on the snacks, in an attempt to alleviate some of the difficulties of the previous day.  Also took lots of pictures.  This was a fairly cloudy day, but the clouds were quite pretty.  I had never really seen them look like this, all silver and black and round-ish.

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As it got to be mid-day, we decided to stop for lunch after we crossed the Susitna River.  This, by the way, is the bridge.  It’s not really wide enough for two vehicles to pass at the same time!  (Actually, I think all the bridges on the Denali Highway are like that.)  So you wait until the oncoming traffic has crossed the bridge before you go out.

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And more beautiful clouds, their light reflected in the Susitna River.

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If you’re interested, this is what the bridge looks like from the side.

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The Bull decided to pull off for lunch on the side of the road, but there was no pull out and we knew that the kids would need a little more space; so he pulled off on a rare side road.

As I got out and started making lunch, he got out and looked at the trailer and yelled.  It turned out that one of the trailer tires had gone flat!  Thankfully, we had a spare.  There were also some men working on a huge dump truck just farther up the little road that we’d pulled onto and they stopped to see if they could help by re-inflating the tire.

As it turned out, they couldn’t and The Bull just had to change the tire.  But it was great that they did stop to ask.  Out there in the middle of nowhere, if you realize you forgot your jack or that you can’t get the tire off, you could be waiting for a long time for someone to stop by and help.  The boys, who have always been thrilled with construction equipment,  were totally dwarfed by the dump truck!

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So I cooked up some hot dogs for lunch and The Bull changed the tire and the boys played in the woods and the little girl played in the trailer.  Then it was on the road again!  One of the boys had a little fun with sitting behind Daddy.  I want to call this photo, “Sometimes I feel like somebody’s watching me!”

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(If you were wondering, those are binoculars in the back of The Bull’s seat.)

At one point, we saw some folks parked on the side of the road looking at something.  Shortly after that, somebody in our truck saw these two.

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But we didn’t pursue them, on the offhand chance that the other hunters had been watching them.

After several hours and a few stops, we got back to the ridge where The Bull had seen the herd on the previous day. The Bull got ready to hike back and see if any bulls had joined the herd.  It was late afternoon and it was starting to get cool, so the kids and I spent some time in the trailer.   I tried to rest  (ha ha!) while the kids had a snack and made a mess in the trailer.

About one hour after The Bull had left, we heard a small POP!  And then another POP!  I was sure that it was The Bull bagging a bull caribou!  I grabbed the map and tried to figure out if it would be quicker to get home by going back to Paxson or by going forward to Cantwell.  I could almost feel the steam of the hot shower on my face. . . the end of our trip was so close!

Forty minutes after the POPs, The Bull came back down the ridge.  He had, indeed, seen a bull caribou and that had been him shooting at it!  But the animal was in the middle of a grassy area and there was no way that The Bull would be able to get closer to it without scaring the critter away, so he tried a long shot.  It was too long of a shot.  He didn’t shoot the caribou and the herd had all run off.

That was a very dejected night in camp.  Although it was fairly early, we decided to call it a night and camp right there.  The kids weren’t too interested in soup, so The Bull and I finished it off and we all got ready for bed.

While the kids were settling in for the night, The Bull and I braved the tiny biting flies and went outside to talk and plan the next day, our final hunting day.  We also made our own little stack of rocks, similar to ones we’d seen from one end of the road to the other.

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I don’t know if these little rock piles have a special significance to the people who are leaving them.  Maybe it’s just a way of saying “I was here!”

We decided to get an early start on the next morning and drive slowly west back to Cantwell, hoping we’d see something worth shooting, and call it a trip at that point.  It was disappointing, as he was so close to the bull and yet too far away.  And yet, there was a hope that our last day would bring success.

* Tomorrow . . . the conclusion of our adventures! *

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