Road Trip Reveals Yukoners’ Fortune

Irecently attended my cousin Jessica’s wedding in Vancouver. Since the wedding was the first stop in an extended holiday, we decided to drive. Long, yes, but the weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful and, for wildlife viewing, I was not disappointed.

Our first big encounter was bison. While I am fortunate to see bison most every day, and often very close up, seeing them graze along the highway was incredibly exciting. As the driver, it was a bit difficult to focus on the road while my head was darting right and left, left and right. We passed small herds and larger herds, and frequently a single bull all by his lonesome.

There were trails worn into the hills along the highway, and giant divots where the grass had been worn away by the bisons’ wallowing. As we made our way south, we stopped several times to wait as bison lollygagged across the highway, apparently indifferent to our presence. Every now and again, however, a bison opted to run alongside our vehicle, which was, I will admit, somewhat more intimidating.

After the bison, we admired caribou, mule deer, elk and moose. All along the highway, they happily munched the roadside grasses, adding some excitement to the increasingly dark drive. Our most memorable encounter, undoubtedly, was this seemingly perfect strip of marsh en route to Muncho Lake. Just as the sun was setting, we looked over to see two, two and three moose in very quick succession, no more than a few feet from the highway. The remarkably close proximity of these seven moose was so contrary to their solitary nature; it momentarily made us doubt our own eyes.

Eventually, we arrived in Vancouver and enjoyed a most fabulous wedding. From there, our road trip continued, looping through much of the western United States and ending back in Whitehorse some 10,000 kilometres later.

Of all the amazing places we saw, one of the things that struck me most was how little wildlife we observed. We visited several parks in the U.S. and crossed innumerable landscapes, but after northern B.C., wildlife dwindled to a few desert lizards and little else. To me, this stuck out, highlighting just how spoiled I have become and how lucky we are in the Yukon.

In my life now, it is not about whether I see wildlife, it is how I see them, and how much I am able to watch their behaviour. On this road trip, except for the bison and a couple of bears on our way home, there was little opportunity to watch any of the wildlife we encountered. The caribou, elk, mule deer and moose, while very exciting to see, were little more than drive-by viewings. Exciting, yes, but not quite what I have gotten used to.

When I arrived back at work, these same animals were waiting for me. Admittedly, they weren’t really waiting; most were as oblivious and indifferent as the ones in the wild. I, however, came back to fall weather, and fall is a very exciting time for wildlife viewing.

Overnight, it seems, the babies have grown up and everyone is beginning to don their winter coats. The younger males are sporting some rather awkward antlers, while the older animals strut their magnificent racks. There is an energy in the air, and it is only a matter of time before the brute force of two males is tested.

Outside my office, an impromptu meeting is interrupted by the bugling of our elk. As I explain to a contractor what he just heard, the bugling begins again, highlighting just how spoiled I have become.

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