January 8, 2000
Our first trip of the new millennium was to the homestead on January 8. To get there in winter, we drive for six hours, unload, pack gear into low sleds called akios, and continue by snowmachine another hour to the cabin.
About halfway in, we stopped for a short break. I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. It was a pack of animals cresting a rise and racing toward us at high speed.
"Grab the dog!" I yelled, thinking it must be a musher training a dog team.
"What's the matter?" Dennis asked, not understanding my urgency.
"Quick! Get Goldie!" I insisted. Once the dog was safely under control, Dennis asked again for an explanation.
"There's a dog team coming," I said as I turned and pointed.
But they weren't dogs. A tightly-packed herd of at least 100 caribou was racing full speed toward us down the snow-covered trail. We hunkered down between our snowmachines and watched in awe as they thundered closer and closer, tongues hanging out and hooves pounding. Awe turned to fright as we realized they were coming straight toward us! They might trample us as well as our machines!
Dennis stood, waved and yelled. They spooked and veered slightly, but continued their headlong race right past us. We could have reached out and touched them. In almost 40 years in the area, Dennis had never seen anything like it. A caribou stampede! The photo shows where it happened. (Unfortunately, we were too busy at the time to pull out a camera.) We watched as they raced on down the road, around the corner, into a valley, and up the other side. Finally they disappeared into the distance, still running full speed.
We fired up the machines and continued cautiously, expecting to see a pack of wolves or something else that might have frightened them. All we saw were more caribou, grazing peacefully along both sides of the trail.
Go on to read Porcupine Explosion
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