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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