This morning it is foggy with low clouds. Phil tells me it was pouring rain during the night, but I never heard it. I slept very well without waking.
Stan is taking very good care of us. He has loaned us a 12 gauge Mossberg Defender with an 18" barrel. We have brought our own ammunition; five or six rounds of 00 buckshot and five or six slugs. We also have about a dozen #7 field loads. Stan is also sending us out with a satellite phone. That way we can call camp to confirm pickups or call for assistance if we run into trouble.
An early breakfast and then a final inventory to make certain all our preparations are in order. By 8:30am we are loading the R44 with Steve's and my gear. We are off the ground a little after 9am and headed down (west) along the Canol trail to the pumping station we visited the day before. Only this time, instead of taking two hours to hike, it takes us about five minutes. At the little creek where we practiced with our bear bangers, we turn right (north) and head up through a pass. I try to mentally map our route, so I can walk back out if I have to, but after the first three or four turns I am completely confused. During the flight we saw numerous caribou and a high meadow with four Dall rams grazing. Soon afterwards, Stan pointed out Caribou Cry drainage ahead and we began circling around, looking for a suitable campsite on a high plateau. In no time at all we spied a good campsite.
It is 10:30am when Stan drops Steve and I off in a soggy meadow at 5500 feet elevation. As soon as we're clear he immediately heads back to Ram Head to pick up Phil and Sandy. In less than thirty seconds the sound of the chopper fades and suddenly we are immersed in the complete silence of the thousands of square kilometers of wilderness that surround us. Our camp sits high in a valley with a small pond above. At the top of our valley is a pass that drops into another valley which runs south through what we named Sheep Valley on our
2007 Canol Trail hike. Eventually that valley drops down to the Inga river at what we called
Tripod Camp (2007) on the Canol Trail.There is good water and lots of pockets of snow that dot the surrounding slopes. It's an exciting place to be with the potential
for lots of wildlife! The sky is overcast and the temperature is cool, but the sun occasionally peaks through. By 11:30am Phil and Sandy join us and we begin to set up camp. Setting up camp takes about
an hour, and by the time we are finished it has begun to rain. So we each grab some lunch and retire to our respective tents to eat, read and sleep until about 5pm when the
rain slacks off and we decide to go for a hike up the slope on our west.
We found a good caribou trail snaking up the slope and climbed up to the first ridge. Then we walked out to
the end of the ridge. Steve set up his spotting scope looking out across the drainage to the cliffs and high meadows on the other side of the drainage. Scanning the far meadows, he found twelve ewes and lambs grazing and romping in a high mountain meadow. There were also lots of caribou skylighted along a ridge behind
the sheep meadow. Very little bear sign compared to back at Ram Head, but we carry bear bangers, bear mace and the shotgun just the same. After an hour of scoping our new digs we headed back to camp for a fine dinner. I had MJF Lentils, Rice & Indian Spice; very tasty. Steve and Sandy had Santa Fe Pasta, another two thumbs up. No fire tonight, but we manage to gather a small amount of firewood. Firewood is hard to find up here as most shrubs are only about knee-high. After some Scotch and a few lies it was time for sleep.