The trip to Haines Junction was just another one of those daylong drives sitting next to your best friend while following a ribbon of curvy asphalt through beautiful wilderness surrounded by stunning views of snowcapped mountains punctuated by cobalt blue lakes and pristine rivers flowing through rocky canyons under clear skies that allow you to see for hundreds of miles seemingly on the road by yourself. This drive terminates in a park where you look out your RV window at 6,000 ft. peaks in every direction and you don’t really care that there is no water because the underground pipes are still locked in the permafrost. Just another day in the Yukon. The next morning when you roll out early in a constant drizzle with all the mountains cover in clouds you realize just how lucky you were the day before. We were excited that tonight we would be sleeping in Alaska so it was easy to get an early start even in the rain. Little did we know that we were about to have one of the most extraordinary experiences anyone could ever have. The road steadily climbs through the two highest passes on the Alaska Highway but The Ram
handled them easily even when the up hills were gravel. We leveled out in the rain at about 2500 ft. and began to slowly make some miles. Up ahead there were some cars stopped which usually equals roadside animals and picture taking so we slowed to participate never expecting what we were about to see. On the passenger side hill we could clearly see it was a bear, and a big one. As we rolled to a stop we realized it was a Mother Grizzly with two cubs climbing up the side of the hill. That alone would have been an awesome sighting but what happened for the next 20 minutes was unbelievable. She went most of the way up the hill but turned and came back down with her cubs, crossed the road just ahead of us, went down the opposite side, walked along the drivers hillside turning over rocks and eating grubs with her two young cubs following closely. We were able to get a video as she was walking on the hillside by slowly cruising along with her and the cubs. I only wish I could post videos here for you all to see what we were
fortunate enough to capture. Quickly changing to a 300 mm lens I began to take some of the shots you see here but when she stopped and came back up on to the road, she was close, no more than 30 feet away. As you can tell from the photos of the snarl with the ears laid back she was done posing for family photos, we were too close to her cubs, and we had overstayed our welcome. Taking the hint we slowly cruised away, leaving her to tend her young and eat her breakfast. Thrilling does not do justice to this close encounter with a wild Mother Grizzly and her cubs but I have completely run out of adjectives. Many have lived in this wilderness for years and have not had this kind of opportunity: we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Fortunately for me there was a rest stop not far up the road, I don’t think I need to explain. The remaining ride into Alaska was a combination of frost heaves, gravel, potholes and dips demonstrating the problems of building a road on permafrost. Reaching the Welcome To Alaska sign was
the culmination of a dream that started in March of 2014 when Michelle and I sat down and mapped out our first Excel spreadsheet. There were hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, and maybe even a few little tears of joy as the clocks changed to Alaska Time and we cruised through customs. For the next 9 weeks we will be living our Alaska Adventure and we cannot wait to get started. But first, we are going to get some breakfast of sourdough pancakes and reindeer sausage……and we need to do some wash.
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