Aug 14 (day 6)

The first thing I see this morning are caribou grazing on the willows plus two black bears, one, near our boat landing site yesterday, the other, up on a slope. I manage to approach the caribou by waving my arms overhead and clucking like a chicken (why not?) but the click of the camera shutter scares them away. Decide it would be prudent to give the black bears some respect and not encroach on their turf. Chicken clucking not an option here. Ha!

After breakfast, we continue to pick our way along the bottom of the river valley. Picking the right course is mostly guesswork, we weave side to side, searching for places to rock hop over the water. No one wants to change footwear or get wet feet if it can be avoided.

There are numerous unnamed side streams that drop from the 2500’ slopes. Snow packs melting in the hot weather of recent days are causing what should be trickles to swell into torrents. Perhaps it was a winter with heavy late snows. Eventually we are forced up along the slope’s shoulder as the McCormick River disappears into a deep rut, lined with unstable boulders. The stars of the show remain the sides of the valley: ribbons of water freely coursing down rocky slopes intermingled with vegetation that looks like velvet from a distance. Deep side valleys invite further exploration.

It seems ironic that water is scarce at our chosen campsite but it is one of the few level areas. Since instructions were to bring food for eight and we are five only, there is a lot of food on this trip, unlike my previous backpacking experience when the pot was never quite big enough. As I scramble down to the creek for water, the faint howl of a wolf carries on the wind. And again, the unmistakable eerie cry…I rush back to tell the others, who are talking and don’t hear it.

No sunset tonight as the fog has started to descend in earnest. Wolf music matches the mystic mood. There is no green valley anymore just rocks and scree and fog. It’s dead calm and the lack of wind adds to the spooky feeling. I ‘m glad for the presence of other hiking companions!