GRMA Day 23: Wildlife and the Alaska Highway
NOTE: All pictures today should enlarge when clicked on or tapped on.
The scenery–the mountains, the rivers, the lakes–should satisfy any rider who chews up tires and consumes expensive gas in this part of the world. But when the weather is good and the wildlife cooperates and makes several appearances in a day, riding in the Yukon and northern British Columbia is hard to beat for a two-wheel traveler.
Today was one of those days. I left Watson Lake at 7 a.m. with blue skies mixed in with the clouds and before I had been rolling 30 minutes a red fox caught my attention on the side of the road. Making the most out of my ABS brakes, I stopped quickly and looked back. He was still there, wondering if he should scoot back into the wet grass and brush from which he had emerged. He decided to stay put, much to my delight. The camera came quickly out of my tour pack and, like the Silver Fox I shot yesterday, this red fox stood still long enough for me to practice my growing photo skills. He even advanced several steps toward me and while I was never really concerned, I was surprised that his curiosity was as great as mine. Finally, after a car stopped to see what was going on, the fox headed for the woods and down the road I went.
Following the Liard River, the Alaska Highway borders small mountains. But once the highway and the river part ways and the road turns in a more southernly direction, the magnificent Rocky Mountains rise up and fill the landscape. After traveling for the last day in the British Columbia Interior Range, the rugged rockies made for a nice change. I didn’t stay in the mountains all day and by the time I pulled into Fort Nelson, the big mountains were miles to the west. But I’ll be headed that way again tomorrow.
Along the Alaska Highway near the BC/Yukon border, road signs indicate that bison could be on or near the road, thanks to the recovery of a substantial herd of Wood Bison, a larger cousin of the Plains Bison. Sure enough, as I was riding down the road, I saw a bison, and then a couple more, and then a small group of about 20. Conscious of the several tourist gorings in Yellowstone this year, I parked my bike on the edge of the road, keeping an eye on the grazing group, and grabbed my camera. They seemed not too interested in me, though one of the bulls stood up and took a couple steps in my direction before deciding to go back to eating. I got the shot I wanted and remounted my bike. Not bad. A Fox and a Bison.
Rolling down the highway, I spotted another black lump on the other side of the road and thought, “Bison.” But being the crack naturalist that I am, as I drew nearer I concluded it was a black bear, not a bison. They don’t even look very much alike. Except they’re both big. I stopped again, though this time a little further down the road. Not wanting to put too much distance between myself and my two-wheeled escape vehicle, I opted for a long-range shot and contentedly counted up my trophies: Fox, Bison, Bear. Oh, but it gets better.
Less than an hour later, I saw another black bear, though of the cinnamon-colored variety. Able to stop closer this time, I decided the bear was more interested in herbaceous delicacies than Harley riders and I followed him warily for a while as he meandered along the tree line. I even watched as he waded into a small pond/creek and swam to the other side where he finally opted for the cover of the forest. OK. Now the count is Fox, Bison, and two Bears. But wait. There’s more.
As I reached the Summit Lake area of the Alaska Highway, I spotted some sheep on a rocky hillside. It turns out they’re Stone’s Sheep, a version of the Dall Sheep. Dismounting once again and securing my camera, I went back for a closer look. As I glanced down I got an even closer look at a Stones Sheep than I thought I would; a nice-sized ram was in the ravine near the road and posed for a couple of close-ups while the juveniles on the hillside did their best to strike a pose as well.
What a great day for a non-lethal big game hunt. I probably won’t have another day filled with a mountainous menagerie like this one and I don’t want to seem greedy, but I would still like to find a grizzly and a moose. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that.
You never know what’s in store as the Adventure unfolds.
More pictures from today I like: