Into Alaska

and a run in with the caribou  In the morning we completed the drive up and over the Top of the World Highway and prepped to enter Alaska and return to the states.  Less than a mile from the border we are still sipping our coffee lazily when out of no where a stream of caribou come bolting across the road just in front of us.  We slowly make our way to a stop and stare in silence as what can only be described as a river of cariobou flow across the road just in front of us.

There are easily 1000s of them and overtime we think there are finished there are more flowing across.  We look in our rearview mirror to see even more crossing from behind and stretch to try and see the entire herd gathering down the valley from us closer to the border crossing.  We finally make our way forward jaws still dropped from the show, but around the next curve the herd has apparently changed its mind and is crossing back to high ground in the other direction.  Two impossible shows back to back!

Once most of the herd is across i hop out of the car and jog up to the ridge hoping for a shot of the entire herd collecting in the valley we just passed.  Looking for some proof or idea of just how many we had just witnessed… but just as i reach the ridge and snap photos of a few stragglers running beneath the ridge to catch up with the others- the winds seemingly shifted again.

The entire herd goes from standing still to scrambling and turning back towards me.  The noice of their communal hooves is deafening and sounds like constant thunder and i swear i can feel the ground shaking beneath my feet.

Im trying to figure out whether to snap photos or film video as they run by well clear of me in the valley, but when i look up its clear the the herd has split into two and 100s of these giant beasts are are now streaming along on both sides of me as though I’m a rock stuck in the middle of the raging river.

This all got very real very fast as I can see the middle of those two arms approaching me quickly and for a moment I’m convinced I’m about to be trampled by the charging herd.  I try to quickly decide whether to yell and scream and make myself huge, or hit the dirt and try to protect myself from the massive antlers and thunderings hooves.  But just a quickly a few of the leaders notice me and stop in their tracks.  They pause for barely a split second, but its long enough to redirect the flow once again to either sides of me.

I stand as still as a statue, snap a few more photos until i see a clear path back downhill to the van and then sprint out before the herd decides to changes its path once again.

Back in the van my heart is racing, the adrenaline is off the charts and I’m thrilled to be sitting in the (relative) safety of the van and able to tell jen the story no worse for wear.

We crossed the border, talked with the patrol about the insanity we just saw (evoking nothing but a grin as they clearly see this every day or so) and continued on, finally having made our way to Alaska.  What a welcome to the US, or rather a farewell from Canada.  We couldn’t have possibly dreamt of or hoped for a better show… even if we had known it was coming or even was a possibility!