Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Patti's Story Part 16©

Arctic Hares     

I was having a difficult time yesterday giving you the location of the run in with the Muskoxen but I finally found a better map. My diary is not as complete as I would wish. I'm not a writer. Will recorded everything. He wrote in his diary every morning, a kind of discipline that he has always exercised. He has been helping with details. Before our meeting we had crossed the Lewis River earlier in the day and met this bull some miles further up the river.

The presence of wildlife was centered around Lake Hazen. Freshwater Hazen is about 45 miles long, 7 miles wide and 900 feet deep. The Glacial Rivers flow into the lake and the water flows out the Ruggles River to Chandler Fjord on the SE side. Near the west end of the Lake we encountered beautiful white Arctic Hares. Arctic Hares can be as long as 28" tall and weight up to 17 lbs. When there's snow on the ground they are camouflaged. We did not see any of the legendary herds of Hares but did come upon a number of smaller groups. I had never seen big white rabbits in the wild. It was so wonderful!! They seemed mythological!

We are walking along these tabled, stepped moraines. In the distance I can see 3 pure white Arctic Hare statues, sitting perfectly upright looking straight ahead. They think they are camouflaged but there is no snow. The dogs haven't noticed them yet. We grab Blackie and Oscar and get them clipped in and are just trying to get Chester clipped when he catches site of them and starts running. Zap bursts after him. They get amazingly close to the Hares before the hares realize their dilemma and bolt up the moraines with the dogs in pursuit. There was no concern that the dogs could catch the Hares but we needed to get the dogs under control. Hares are very fast!!

I was holding on to the remaining boys while Will took off after Chester and Zap. Up and over a huge moraine would go the Hares and then disappear on the other side. Next Chester and Zap would run up and over and disappear. Then Will would run up and over and disappear calling their names louder and louder. Then I would see the hares reappear running up and over the next stepped moraine and disappearing.  Following them, the dogs appeared though further behind, still in the hunt and then disappear. Behind them would go Will, up and over and disappear. Then again the Hares would reappear and repeat the same, Chester and Zap again and Will following. It was completely hilarious. I wish I had a movie to show you. Eventually Zap emerged off to the right side, heading back my way. He knew he was in trouble and elected to circle route himself back. I called him and as he lumbered back to me I could see Will  still running after Chester. Young Chester. Lots of energy. Will finally caught him and returned. He didn't see the humor in it at the time. I might not have if I had been the one chasing them. It was wonderful!!

Enjoy Your day!

Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks 

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Patti’s Story Part 15©

On To Lake Hazen     

The terrain became easier to handle as we descended to the big Lake.There were miles of finer rock raised moraines with flat tops that stepped up again and again. These were the result of receding of glaciers over millions of years so they were not peaked like the ones we had traversed in the Rollrock Valley.
Musk Oxen Skull

The first photo is a Muskox skull. Dropping into the approach valley we had been walking along a high river bank for about 10 miles. We walked over a rise and came face to face with a lone bull Muskox. We were standing about 25’ or less apart. There was a sharp drop to the riverbed to our left. Will quickly clipped the necklines of the dogs together. They were barking and lunging so we had to calm them down and hold them back. My immediate instinct was to back up slowly and get out of his line of sight. Will, instead, wisely said we
Patti and dogs hiking lake in background
should hold our ground and stand.

Facing down a lone bull Muskox is an interesting experience. Meeting one is a very dangerous experience. Muskox horn tips are razor sharp, effective killing tools. The lone bull is an old male who has been pushed out from his herd, challenged by a younger, stronger bull. People working in the Arctic understand that these lone bulls have killed and how important it is to avoid them.

Our adversary was very excited by our appearance and became instantly aggressive. Snorting ferociously and pawing the ground it seemed as though he would charge us at any moment. I’m not sure how long it lasted though it seemed like a long time. He would lunge forward and back up. I stood there as I was instructed. Everything happened in slow motion. Will calmly spoke in quiet tones to make sure I was okay. I understood from being a dog musher that it was important not to show fear. Animals can smell fear. The stand off ended in a flash as the old boy dove over the edge of the river bank to the valley below. We ran to the edge. In an instant he was about 30 feet below us running along the river in his original direction.

You learn a lot about yourself in these kinds of circumstances. I’m laughing to myself as I write that. For those of you who have faced down a lone bull muskox, of course you understand. Laughing out Loud. Ask your questions. The answers are out there. The information will come if you are listening or if you can read and do research because it’s certainly a lot easier now with the Internet! The most difficult thing I’ve done is to build my company. Events like the Muskox changed my mindset. Almost anything is possible.

New School/Old School

Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks 

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Patti's Story Part 14 ©

Rivers, Glaciers, Mountains     

In the first photo I'm sitting at the base of Rollrock Glacier.
Patti sitting at base of Glacial wall
I have my all purpose mug out for a drink of the glacial water melting down the side where I'm sitting. Incredibly amazing to be able to say that I got to do that.  I'm 64 years old now. In this picture I am 30 years old. The glaciers in these photos have dramatically receded. I'll have to do some more research on that.
Patti and dogs crossing stream

The second photo shows another river crossing. We wore tennis shoes in rubber boots for much of this trip. It was a lightweight system and worked very well. The tennis shoes dried quickly overnight. We had been carrying our hiking boots but eventually left them at one of the camps. They were heavy and never dried out. Interesting that much of the gear we assumed would work did not. You have to be open to new ideas, listen to everyone with Arctic experience!
Patti and dogs mountain background

The third photo shows the dogs and me hiking. The forth is an incredible shot of a valley of Arctic Poppies on our route as we descended to Lake Hazen.
Red flowers in Mountainous Valley
Dogs in Arctic Cotton

The last photo is one of my favorites of Zap and Blackie. Oh my noble boys! I loved those dogs. They were amazing.

Be Well ~

Patti Steger 
Steger Mukluks 

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