Tag Archives: Caribou

August 17, 2015 Top of the World Highway, Yukon

Bull Caribou Posing

Bull Caribou Posing

Caribou of the Forty Mile Herd

Rained all day yesterday here on the Top of the World Highway, but I decided to stay put and wait for some nice weather to go back up to the border and hunt for more caribou. Plus I really hate to drive the rest of this incredibly grand ridge running highway when I can’t enjoy the spectacular views. In addition, when I see the vehicles pass by that are just covered in mud, it seems it may well be worth my while to wait for a dry day to continue on.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Low Hanging Clouds

Low Hanging Clouds

So this morning I was up and out as soon as I could tell there was some sun and blue sky above the fog that enshrouded my roadside campsite.

View From Top of the World

View From Top of the World

As I climbed back west towards the border, I kept running into and out of the fog/clouds, making for some wonderful photo opps.

Low Hanging Clouds

Low Hanging Clouds

View From Top of the World

View From Top of the World

View From Top of the World

View From Top of the World

I have spent the past week up here on the Boundary Spur Road and now the Top of the World Highway and I have been able to observe the tundra vegetation turning color right before m eyes.

Ground Color Along the Top of the World Highway

Ground Color Along the Top of the World Highway

Top of the World Boondocking Campsite

Top of the World Boondocking Campsite

It really is starting to get quite colorful and I assume it will become more so before much longer, sort of reminds me of autumn in New England, just a lower version. And yes, that is my rig in the image above, one of the nicer spots I have been parked on this trip … a pretty nice view, plus with the border shutting down at 8 PM and not reopening until 8 AM, there is absolutely no road noise at night so the silence up here is deafening.

Top of the World Boondocking Campsite

Top of the World Boondocking Campsite

Top of the World Boondocking Campsite

Top of the World Boondocking Campsite

A couple more shots of my campsite.

Bull Caribou Backlit

Bull Caribou Backlit

A Successful Caribou Hunt

I ran into my first small herd of caribou bulls around KMM 90 on the Top of the World Highway as I made my way back up to the border.

Bull Caribou Backlit

Bull Caribou Backlit

Caribou Bull

Caribou Bull

They weren’t very cooperative as far as providing me with any good lighting, staying between me and the rising sun, but they did come in fairly close …

Curious Caribou

Curious Caribou

and at one point, their curiosity about what I was doing kind of got the best of them.

Caribou on the Ridge

Caribou on the Ridge

Caribou on the Ridge

Caribou on the Ridge

A little farther up the road I ran into another small group of bulls as they made their way up a ridge and disappeared into the valley below.

Bull Caribou Posing

Bull Caribou Posing

Bull Caribou Posing

Bull Caribou Posing

My good fortunes continued when I turned off the highway and investigated one of the few side roads, very rough and muddy, but I discovered yet another small herd of bulls gathered in this area.

Caribou Grazing

Caribou Grazing

Caribou Feeding

Caribou Feeding

Caribou Bulls

Caribou Bulls

This is one of my favorite shots of this group when they all turned to see exactly what that strange five legged creature was that was so obviously stalking them.

Caribou Bulls

Caribou Bulls

Caribou Bulls

Caribou Bulls

Caribou

Bedding Down

Caribou Bedding Down

Caribou Bedding Down

Around noon the group finally stopped moving and settled down for a siesta.

Father and Son?

Father and Son?

Father and Son?

Father and Son?

I wonder if these two are related. The younger bull followed this mature bull very closely all the while I was following the group.

This turned out to be one of the most exciting, rewarding, and physically exhausting days of this entire Alaska adventure! Following these guys, walking on the spongy tundra carrying my tripod and camera mounted with the 600mm lens, had me wondering at times if i was going to have a heart attack. But well worth the effort, just a great day at the Top of the World!

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August 15, 2015 Boundary Spur Road, Alaska

View From Top of the World Highway

View From Top of the World Highway

Finally Rescued (No Thanks to Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance)

I awoke to gorgeous blue skies with huge brilliant cumulus clouds this morning. What a day! Actually, what a day to do Top of the World photography, not waste my time trying to get Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance to help me with my flat tire, here, out in the middle of nowhere.

But, once again I headed up to the Border Station, and resumed my post on their phone.

My first call was to check back in with Galen, to see if he had found me some help and to let him know I had not found any in Chicken. Naturally, there was no way that GSRA could connect me to Galen, just could not be done. So, once again, I start all over with Amanda. This time I tell them to please contact Williards in Tok, since I had been told yesterday that they are the people to talk to. Amanda says that she has located some notes on my calls from yesterday, says they still haven’t found anyone to agree to make the service call. Says she will contact Williards and asks me for my call back number. Once again, I describe my phone situation. She seems to understand and tells me to call back in fifteen minutes and she should have something by then.

I make the call fifteen minutes later and get, drumroll please, Moses. Moses can’t possibly connect me to Amanda and has quite an attitude when I explain how frustrating this is getting for me. Says this is my problem, they HAVE to have a call back number. I give up and tell him I will call again and hope I get Amanda by chance.

Fifteen minutes late I call and get yet another woman who cheerfully tells me she will attempt to connect me to Amanda. Amanda then answers but I’m guessing this might not be the same Amanda who was previously trying to help me. Referring to her notes on me, I am told by this Amanda that I CANCELLED my service call yesterday at 3:30 PM. Obviously, this comes as a bit of a surprise to me as that is when I told Galen ( remember him, about six different operators ago ) to please continue looking for help and I would call him back today. As this Amanda’s attitude continued going hostile, I figured I may as well just give up.

In one last act of desperation I called again and got Heather. After starting again with her, I finally asked to please speak with a supervisor as I was beginning to realize I had reached my wit’s end.

A supervisor came on the line, no name given, told me they have done everything humanly possible to get someone to respond to my situation but NO ONE within a one hundred and fifty mile radius would agree to do so and she suggested that I call 911. Call 911…. this is an emergency! I told her I just couldn’t do that, that 911 was for a severe life threatening emergency, not just a case of a pathetically incompetent roadside assistance company not being able to do their job for which they have already accepted payment.

If You Want Something Done, You Just Have to Do It Yourself!

Ten minutes after getting off the line with Good Sam Roadside Assistance, I got the number for Willard’s in Tok from the helpful woman manning the Border Station. I called and arranged for a service call in all of about three minutes, said they would be there in about three hours! The woman at Willards mentioned that she had been contacted by Good Sams Roadside Assistance, actually wasted over an hour on hold with them, and had been awaiting a confirmation call from them, a call that never came, she said. And GSRA told me how NO ONE within a hundred and fifty miles had agreed to come out here, in other words, they just flat lied to me!

A $1700 Tire Change

A $1700 Tire Change

About four hours later an elderly man in a beat all to Hell F-250 pickup arrived on scene. I assumed from our later conversations that this was Williard, who told me he was seventy-eight years old, about as old as the truck looked but still not as old as the compresssor that was mounted on what was left of the bed of the ancient F-150. He got right down to business, slowly, needless to say. I did get a bit of a kick out of talking with this true Alaskan, and although certainly not the quickest tire change ever performed, he did seem to know exacty what he was doing. So, two hours later, and $1748 poorer, I was once agin ready to hit the road.

View From Top of the World Highway

View From Top of the World Highway

Another wonderful Top of the World images from just short of the Border Station.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

I made it through customs without incident, just asked a few routine questions about the dogs and food, guns, and alcohol, then simply showed him my passport and was waved through into Canada.

Canadian Side of the Border and More Caribou!

Caribou

Caribou

Not two miles past the Border Station, I saw a small band of caribou bulls grazing towards the road. Fortuitously, there just happened to be a large pulloff just at that spot, so I hopped ot, ran back to the Prius for my tripod and set up my camera with the long lens…

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

and got some nice shots…

Caribou

Caribou

…before they finally crossed the road and headed downhill.

So nice to be back on the road!

Down to Dawson City

Down to Dawson City

Down to Dawson City

Down to Dawson City

I decided to try and make it about half the way down the Top of the World Highway tonight before using a roadside pulloff for my overnight boondocking campsite and found a pleasant spot around KMM 65. After reading all the warnings about this highway, I was pleasantly surprised to find it a very well maintained, wide gravel road, absolutely no reason to dread travelling it whatsoever.

Not five minutes after setting up I saw the unmistakeable profile of Island Girl’s tow vehicle approaching me ( Brenda and Hector carry two kayaks atop their car ). They had stopped where I was stranded back on the Boundary Spur Road yesterday when they saw my rig as they passed by on their way to Dawson City. Not knowing that I had made it back on the road ( no phone or internet up here ) they were heading back up the Top of the World Highway on a 70 mile, one way no less, rescue trip with their small 150 PSI compressor and some slime in case my flat were just the result of a slow leak, which, it turns out, it most probably was ( a defective valve extender was the cause of my problem )! It is very comforting to realize just how nice some of the folks you meet along the way can be! Thanks again guys!

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August 14, 2015 Boundary Spur Road, Alaska

Birth of a Rainbow

Birth of a Rainbow

An Eventful Morning

I was having my morning coffee, relaxing in my recliner around 5:30 this morning …

Caribou at campsite

Early Morning Visitors

when I saw a small band of caribou pop up out of the brush on the perimeter of my pulloff campsite and head towards my motorhome.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Bull Caribou Just Passing Through

Bull Caribou Just Passing Through

I jumped up and grabbed the camera and shot a couple shots through the windshield as they skirted by and headed to cross the highway.

Caribou From Campsite

Caribou From Campsite

Caribou on the Boundary Spur Road

Caribou on the Boundary Spur Road

Caribou on the Boundary Spur Road

Caribou on the Boundary Spur Road

Unfortunately, I just wasn’t prepared for this intrusion and it took me a few precious seconds to find the camera and fire off some shots. But with not a whole lot of light to work with and my camera set to what I was doing last night, I didn’t get anything terribly good. Still, it was kind of a thrill to see them up close like this.

Disaster Strikes!

When I let the dogs out after my caribou run in, I noticed my pasenger side outside dually appered to be going flat. I have never had a flat on this motorhome and the Michelin tires are only two years old, so this was totally unexpected and could not possibly have happened at a worst place, seventy-five miles from Dawson City and a hundred miles from Tok. This was going to be expensive!

I drove nine miles to the Border Station and the two pleasant and very helpful women manning the station graciously allowed me to use the phone to call Good Sam Roadside Assistance, a service I have carried and paid for, but never had to use, for the past twenty two years.

Good Sam Roadside Assistance ??????

Twelve minutes into my first call, I was hung up on by an obviously flustered young woman who had no idea of what she was doing, trying to explain to me that I was not covered in Alaska, which, of course, is not true. My second call didn’t fare much better as this woman could not determine exactly where I was located despite my explaining very carefully exactly where this Border Station was. She claimed that Google Maps and everything else she was referring to in an attempt to locate me, did not show a Boundary Spur Road, the Border Station, nor any town in the Yukon called Dawson City. I found that a little hard to fathom. After thirty-six minutes with her, it became obvious that I was not getting anywhere. She never did figure out where I was. This was starting to get frustrating.

A third call fared little better although by now the Border Station folks gave me some GPS coordinates for our location and finally Good Sam Roadside Assistance had me located and after thirty minutes on the line with them, I was told they would make calls and try to get me some help.

Not having cell service up here greatly harmed my chances for help from this outfit, because after every call they wanted me to give them a call back number so they could contact me with further information on my rescue situation. But I was using a government satellite ( I assume ) phone and could’nt provide them with a callback number, instead having to tell them I would call back to them at a time they determined would be sufficient for them to make arrangements for my service call. This proved to make things make things very difficult, for when I called back, I just got the next available operator, not the one I was previously dealing with, and they explained to me that their operators do not have designated extentions and therefore can not be contacted by name when I called back. As a result, every time I called I basically had to start all over again, just incredibly frustrating, what a screwed up operation.

My fourth call lasted another fifty-two minutes with holds of fifteen and twenty minutes and ended with me finally all but giving up and telling this operator ( Galen ) that I was now going to just drive my car back to Chicken and see if I could find some help myself, and if not, that tomorrow I would drive to Dawson City and look there. At this time Good Sam Roadside Assistance was telling me that they could find no one who would agree to come up here on a flat tire service call. I told Galen to keep looking and I would check back in with him first thing tomorrow to see if they came up with anything or if I had found something on my trip back to Chicken.

So I hopped in the car and drove the forty-five miles back to Chicken …

Wrecked Motorhome

A Scary Sight

… passing this terrifying sight on the way. It is about five hundred feet straight down to the river where this rig overturned, saved only by some small aspens on the side of the road. I was told later that the lone woman and her dog were safe and not injured. If I can’t get a flat tire fixed up here, how is this poor person going to have this wreck salvaged?

Look Out For Caribou

Look Out For Caribou

Had to dodge this caribou that couldn’t make up it’s mind just which way it wanted to go to get out of my way.

In Chicken, I was told there was no one there that could possibly help and that my only hope was Williard’s in Tok.

View From the Top of the World

View From the Top of the World

View From the Top of the World

View From the Top of the World

On my way home I stopped and got a couple of threatening sky shots …

Interesting Rock

Interesting Rock

…and found this interesting rock in roadside quarry I stopped to check out.

So I am getting a little worried about just when and how I am going to be able to get back on the road again … and my faith in Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance has been completely shattered, I just don’t see them being competent enough to actually come to my rescue. Stay tuned!

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August 11-12, 2015 Taylor Highway to Boundary Spur Road, Alaska

Aug 11 Taylor Highway

I left the Pioneer Park around 10 AM and filled up the motorhome at the Tesora gas station on the way out to the highway. Route 2 from Fairbanks south to Tok runs through some very ordinary, slightly boring terrain, but does look like it probably harbors a large moose population. I did see several more cows, some with calves ( boy, have they gotten larger than the first little ones I saw almost three months ago ), some without, but yet again saw zero bulls!

Filled up with gas again in Tok and then proceeded north and east on Route 5, the Taylor Highway, heading to Chicken and then on to Dawson City in the Yukon.

Overnight Campsite on the Taylor Highway

Overnight Campsite on the Taylor Highway

I stopped for the night somewhere around MM10 on the Taylor Highway at a large paved, flat, double ended pulloff where there was already one small RV parked.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Aug 12 Taylor Highway to Boundary Spur Road MM4.5

Overnight Campsite on the Taylor Highway

Overnight Campsite on the Taylor Highway

After a good night’s sleep at my roadside pulloff on the Taylor Highway, I awoke to bright skies, a welcome change, and headed north.

Taylor Highway Heading North of Tok

Taylor Highway Heading North of Tok

The Taylor Highway is a fairly good paved two lane road that was for the most part, in pretty good shape. There were sections where you want to watch your speed as it can get a little rough. The road turns to gravel, still fairly well maintained, a little short of the tiny hamlet of Chicken. I passed this little place by and continued on to the intersection with the Boundary Spur Road, taking this newly paved two lane road about 4.5 miles east where I pulled off the road to spend the night.

View from Taylor Highway Between Chicken and the Border

View from Taylor Highway Between Chicken and the Border

The gravel road from Chicken to the intersection with the Boundary Spur Road does get a little narrow here and there and does have some wash boarded sections, but for the most part is still a relatively easy road to navigate in a motorhome. There are some sections with steep dropoffs, ( as in the edge of the road image above ) and no guardrails, that could make some folks a little sqeamish. I drove it on a dry day, so don’t know if the surface could get a little slick and muddy with rain, it looks like that may be the case.

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Caribou

Only three miles in on the Boundary Spur Road, I spotted a large group of caribou moving along the hillside, not far above the road.

Caribou Bulls Grazing the Hillside

Caribou Bulls Grazing the Hillside

Caribou Bulls Grazing the Hillside

Caribou Bulls Grazing the Hillside

These guys move continuously, with their heads down, foraging, but seemingly never actually stopping in one spot to graze, kind of their version of walk and talk, although I guess that would be walk and eat.

Boundary Spur Road Boondocking Campsite

Boundary Spur Road Boondocking Campsite

This is where I set up camp for the night, a pulloff area around MM 4.5 on the Boundary Spur Road, where it was wide enough for me to turn around in without unhooking the toad. No Verizon signal or over the air TV reception here, but pretty nice views to the south.

View From the Road to Eagle

View From the Road to Eagle

View From the Road to Eagle

Quick Side Trip Down Memory Lane to Eagle

After setting up, I unhooked the Prius and took the sixty five mile drive north to Eagle to see how much had changed there since my last visit when I was stranded there with a bad wheel bearing back in 1993.

Views along the way were quite spectacular in spots.

Eagle House

Seen Better Days

A few different dwellings here …

Eagle Birdhouses

Eagle Birdhouses

along with some great views of the Yukon River.

View Down the Yukon River From Eagle

View Down the Yukon River From Eagle

View Up the Yukon River From Eagle

View Up the Yukon River From Eagle

View Down the Yukon River From Eagle

View Down the Yukon River From Eagle

Unfortunately, those dark skies to the left in the image above opened up on me just as I arrived in Eagle so I don’t have much to show of this rather neat, in a primitive way, little town. Worth exploring if you have the time.

View From the Road to Eagle

View From the Road to Eagle

The gravel road up to Eagle was in pretty decent shape, again, narrow in some sections and a little rough here and there. Some nice scenery and you do drive by some interesting stream gold mining operations on the way in.

View from the Road to Eagle

View from the Road to Eagle

By the time I got back to my boondocking site, I had escaped the rain and was treated to some dramatic landscapes, with the sun popping through glorious clouds and highlighting the top of the world views.

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