It was still
raining when I woke up at 6am this morning. So I went back to sleep until 8am. By 8:30am the rain had stopped and the sky was trying to clear. While we cooked breakfast we decided to hike up the drainage to Sheep Valley pass. We geared up and were on move by 9:30am. We skirted the base of the west slope and stayed above the pond trying to stay out of the wet brush. We arrived at Sheep Pass at 12:30p. The pass opened out into a very interesting geography. To the left, the slopes all drained south out into Sheep Valley and eventually down into the Intga river. But to the right the geology was twisted and jumbled. There was a massive cataract, almost a waterfall, that crashed down from a high hidden valley. We weren't able to see where it was draining. Eventually we realized it was draining out to the north and into Caribou Cry river. This is a very complex country to travel in.
There were wild and lush slopes in vivid shades of green everywhere and we spent a great deal of time scanning the country with Steve's spotting scope. We could see out past the Canol and beyond the MacKenzie Barrens into the Yukon. But the only wildlife we could find was an American Pipet and several pikas. We also found a tail feather from a white-tail ptarmigan and some old wolf scat.
Lunch was peanut butter, crackers and dried fruit. On the return trip we swung out to the east side of our valley and paralleled a deep creek. We found a vertical wall about 75 feet high along one side of the creek. The wall was layer on layer of black shale alternating with more narrow bands of brown, partially decomposed sedimentary rock every meter or so. Very interesting. We expected to find some fossils in the layers, but there was no safe way to approach the wall closely enough to inspect it. We glassed it carefully, but couldn't see the detail at that level. We finished our walk at the top of the short hill just east of our camp. There was a good background of peaks and high meadows. I did a long salamba sirsasana and had Sandy shoot some photos. We were back in camp by 4:30pm for tea. At 6pm we were attending to camp chores when Steve shouted "There's a bear!". A grizzly bear had wandered down the west wall and had stopped above camp and was observing us. It was in very good condition and the sun behind it made its coat shine like a halo around its body. I was grabbing the shotgun when Steve fired a bear banger at it. The bear turned away immediately and ran up the slope. I was concerned that we had it cornered at the base of some cliffs above camp, and I wasn't sure how a cornered grizzly would react. It stopped and looked back at us when Steve fired a second banger right at it. The bear turned around and started scaling the vertical cliff, got to the top of the cliff and continued up the slope above. In less than 60 seconds the bear had climbed up a vertical cliff, ascended the rest of the slope, and was gone. He had climbed about 600 vertical feet. Steve pointed out that that was the way a successful human-grizzly interaction should end.
We are starting to talk about what ifs. What if we hiked the entire Canol trail, from outside Norman Wells to the Yukon Border (mile 222)? Once we are all retired, we could hire Ram Head to drop us supplies once a week and to ferry us across the more dangerous rivers like the Keele and the Twitcha. Great adventures deserve great Scotch and we stayed up late discussing the details.