Saturday Ranger Hike

Aug 5, 2012 | 0 comments

Yesterday was the “actual” public ranger hike, for which we had been scouting out the 3870 trail on Thursday. Technically I didn’t have to go, since it was Saturday and I have the weekends off, but I forced myself to get outside again, despite wanting to be lazy in the dry warmth of the bunkhouse all day. In the end, I’m super glad I went.

Joining us on the hike were a couple who work for Bering Air (a bush pilot and his wife), as well as a family of 5 from Delaware who reminded me a lot of my own family a few years ago when we were all teenagers/preteens.
Road straight into the clouds

Once again, the weather was in its characteristic state of Awful, and we drove the 40 miles to Grand Singatook in and out of the clouds, sometimes with only a few hundred feet visibility. When we arrived, it was pretty foggy and the wind was driving rain sideways at us from the southeast, so everyone geared up in full rain gear, gloves, and hats.

Hikers and rainbow

The hike was a lot slower with a group than it had been when it was just 2 of us, but I didn’t mind too much. The weather went in and out from being in a dense cloud of fog, to totally clear with a big rainbow arching across the road below.

Single rainbow

We got a little over 1,200 feet in altitude before the group came to a consensus that they were ready to head back, mainly due to being freezing cold and wet. As we were heading back down though, the Bering Air pilot pointed out some tiny black dots on the tundra across the road — Reindeer! As we looked closer, we realized there were hundreds of them, all moving in a giant amorphous mass in one direction.

Someone stopped on the road to take pictures

Hiking back down to the reindeer

Herd behind our cars

By the time we got to the bottom, most of the herd had moved over the hill, but fortunately they had gone the direction we needed to go to get back to Nome. Sure enough, as we came over the hill, there they were, like some sort of great migration you’d see on a National Geographic special.

Herd with a calf in back (aka wolf bait!)

Great Migration shot

We drove slowly along with the herd for a while, marveling at their massive numbers; you could hear them grunting quietly as they plodded along.

Buck shedding its velvet

Some had unusual colors

Just like herd I saw back at Ikpek, this one is also undoubtedly owned and managed by someone from one of the local villages. Some of the reindeer had tags, and others had unusual colors and markings, making them stand out from wild caribou.

Two bucks fighting

Short-eared Owl flying

Eventually we had to move on, but on the way back we saw quite a few different birds, including short-eared owls, rough-legged hawks, and even a sandhill crane, which isn’t very common around here.

Sandhill Crane

So all in all, the hike was totally worth it for all the wildlife and great scenery we saw, despite the weather. And now that today hasn’t been any sunnier, I’m glad I got out for a bit yesterday.


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