Our first day driving on the Dalton Highway we passed a bear on the left side of the road, the bear disappeared as quickly as we noticed it. By the time we stopped and looked back it had gone into the brush. Seeing a bear is always exhilarating, but when it happens as quickly as this experience it leaves you desiring a better view. Our hike into Gates of the Arctic where we nearly ran into a bear though, it left us hoping for something a bit less exciting.
The second day on the Dalton Highway marked one of my favorite moments of the entire drive. We were just north of Coldfoot (mile 175) not yet to Wiseman (mile 189), there was a light drizzle and off to the right side of the road I noticed some movement. It wasn’t huge, but it was grey…a WOLF! A wild, running around in nature, actual wolf! We stopped to see if we could get a better look. The wolf was being indecisive over crossing the road and it meant that we got to enjoy its beauty for a bit longer. After a couple of minutes it loped across the road and quickly disappeared into the brush. It was perplexing, the wolf was alone, but had a beautiful coat and looked healthy. Was it a lone male looking for a pack? Do they not pack up until winter? Was it hunting alone? Was it looking for mates? So many questions.
The third day started with our drive up to Deadhorse, we saw some caribou in the morning, but no herds just a couple here and there. We stopped for a quick bathroom break and ran into some fellow travelers. They had seen a muskox the day before and let us know that they could be in the area. My eyes widened and I turned into a 5-year old. Where was it? When did you see it? How big was it? What was it doing? What did it look like? Were there others with it? This would be the crown jewel to the Arctic experience.
We continued to Deadhorse and my eyes scanned east and west for massive brown beasts. When we got to Deadhorse I abandoned all hope of seeing animals. On our drive through the oil fields to the Arctic Ocean, we saw several foxes, which was quite surprising. Our bus driver let us know that in the winter they often have polar bears come through.
As we started driving back down towards Galbraith Lake I continued my scan for big brown beasts and then we found some! They just weren’t what I was hoping for, they weren’t muskoxen; they were two brown bears. These guys didn’t look like mature adults. They looked liked adolescents. We stopped to watch them from the car and the just rough housed with one another. It reminded me of my brother. One would wallop the other one with it’s paw, the one that got wallop would open its mouth and express its annoyance and then wallop the other one upside the head. I imagined them having the following conversation.
‘No, you stop it’
‘You started it’
‘No, you started it’
‘I’m telling, Mom!’
‘Just see what happens if you do’