~ I have to grin. There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, like the thrill of Chisana. Deep in the remote, fly-in area of the Interior mountains of Alaska, Pioneer Outfitters has been here, taking part in these memories since 1924.
Jeff Harris and Kaleb Kiper are Alaska Big Game Guide Trainees with Pioneer Outfitters Survival & Guide Training, located and based in Chisana.
They are both strong, smart, cautious men and they love to hike. (Gimme my horse!) So, as they plotted their Sunday afternoon, I simply shook my head and reminded them both a couple times to take their cameras.
I was working on the new website, so I didn’t notice when they left, other than it was finally quiet in the Lodge and had no clue how long they had been gone, but boy, I sure heard them when they got back!
This is their story, so I’ll let them share it with you. (while you are reading their own accounts, picture me, listening, looking as if I were watching a tennis match! LOL)
As me and my partner Tank, and my fellow Guide Trainee Jeff Harris finished our morning chores on Sunday, May 27th, we decided to take a trek through the great Alaskan wilderness that we are so blessed to be surrounded by.
The biggest problem we had was choosing which spot to start from. Whether or not to start our trek on the river and walk out onto the flats and possibly spot some caribou or the horses grazing in the newly green meadows along the river’s edge, which would make for some great pictures for Amber’s new website.
Jeff and I decided on the “or”.
We decided on a different route and journey, we would go to Red Hill, which by the way, isn’t so much of a hill at 5,110 feet in elevation, but more of a small mountain. It is also only about a mile and a half from the Pioneer Outfitters Lodge to the base .
Before leaving we geared-up our packs, with camel packs (to drink from), snacks, binoculars, our pistols, my partner Tank and of course (as Amber reminded us both at least a hundred times) our cameras.
While making our way to Red Hill, we came across the expected difficult terrain. Terrain such as up and down hill climbs, not to mention the mud, bogs and quicksand in the lower parts of the land.
The morning was set for after chores Kaleb and I would set off on a hike to Red Hill (Dry Gulch Ridge). We wanted to reach the base and spot Dall sheep on the way. As we neared the half way we saw 2 ewes and 2 lambs that were then joined by a third pair. It was great to see the Spring time bring new life to the ridge.
As we neared closer we spotted a ram lying on a lower ledge. He seemed to be without concern as we moved closer for a better look. As we neared the base he was disappearing as we got under the ledge he was still lying on. Once at the base right below the ram I needed to try for a good picture opportunity.
Finally reaching the base of Red Hill, we spotted a young ram (Dall Sheep) laying on a cliff edge warming himself on the black rock of the mountain. After spotting the ram, we chose to see how close we could get.
After making it about a fifth of the way up the mountain, we were within 100 yards of the young ram. Jeff wanted to get some close up pictures, so he continued his climb, closing the distance between himself and the sheep. Getting to within the close range of 30 yards, the ram spotted Jeff and spooked upwards.
Kaleb stayed at the base and I dropped all my gear and just grabbed my camera and up the face I went. As Kaleb was keeping an eye on the ledge to see if the ram exited while I was climbing I headed for the chance. Once I reached the ledge below the ram, I checked on Kaleb and he hand motioned all was well and I continued on. Up around the edge and straight up the gulch.
While on my way I kept looking straight up to see if the ram was watching. Sure enough as I was almost to him he had moved and was staring over the edge to see what was on its way to join his world. We watched each other from about 30 yrds apart and I was able to get some photos of the moment. He then backed off and was headed for higher ground and I headed for higher ground also for maybe another chance. As it turned out he went the other direction after spotting me again.
There wasn’t one, but two young rams! I looked and “guestimated” the rams to be about 4-5 years of age and not quite legal rams yet, to be sure. The rams spotted my dog, Tank, running around and soon after they continued to climb higher up the mountain and nearly out of sight.
Jeff climbed down and we discussed the amazing encounter with the rams over our lunch. The trek back to the Lodge was not as eventful, but the remaining memories Jeff and I shared over the rams were good ones.
So back down the face I went to tell Kaleb of the great experience it was. Step by step back down the steep and slippery face to the slough rocks where Kaleb was watching. As I near him with my excitement, he was equally excited about something else.
There was 2 rams up on that ledge. The second was hidden from our view and as I had encountered the one it had set them both out the other direction and Kaleb was able to get some awesome photos from where he was.
What a great experience we had, as we sat and chatted about it over a snack lunch on the slough rocks. Now it was time to head out and get back to camp as the weather was ready to change on us. 90 min later we were back in camp and had lots of stories to tell of a great adventure and wildlife opportunities we had.
~ So, they were happy and so was I when I saw what they brought me to share with you! There are Dall Sheep on Red Hill from Spring until Winter and they are a pleasure to watch and study as well as good practice subjects to study and learn how to judge them accurately for our Trainees.
Occasionally, we will have a severely handicapped hunter and this is a nice and easy ride in addition to being able to ride the horses to the top of Red Hill by way of the Northwest approach. (This I do all Summer long!)
All Summer, Thunder and I head to the top, alone or with friends or guests. It is a nice and easy day’s outing with a view that takes my breath away each time.