A trip to forget, Part V
I watched those first snowflakes hit the deck of the boat. As I glanced around at the mountains that towered above the bay, I knew that the peaks would soon be blanketed in snow.
The sea ducks that made the bay their home were moving back into the coves to seek shelter from the coming storm. The twin motors on the charter boat quieted down as the boat was throttled back. Binoculars were pulled up, and everyone began glassing a slope that was off to our right. Several minutes passed. Then, one of the guys spoke up.
“There are three goats on that patch of grass just under the snow filled canyon at the far right,” Ben said.
Sure enough, there were the goats the other guide had spotted the day before. They were a long way away. The plan was that if we spotted goats, the boat driver would drop us off on the shore and we would hike up to where the goats were. We would take all of our supplies with us except the tents. We would just throw our bags down on the ground and sleep under the stars. Except in this case, it was looking like we would be sleeping under the snow!
“I can’t tell if those goats are billies or nannies,” Ben said. “They are just too far away.”
The only way we were going to find out was to hike up to where they were.
“How long would it take up to hike up there and check out those goats?” I asked Ben.
“Oh, I would say that it would take us about seven to eight hours to reach them,” Ben replied. “That is if the going is good and we don’t have to skirt around any problem areas that we can’t see from down here.”
I am sure I had a very surprised look on my face.
“So, in other words, if we take off and head up we are definitely going to spend the night on the mountain,” I inquired.
“Yes, we will have to spend the night,” Ben said.
I glanced back up the bay to the east and toward the Thompson Pass. You could see the snowstorm bearing down on us.
“If we go up there, Ben, we are going to have spend one miserable night on the mountain,” I said.
He nodded in agreement.
“I want a goat really bad, but I am not going to bust my tail going up that mountain that is straight up and down and then take a chance there are no shootable goats up there and then to top it all off sleep in a snowstorm with no tent!” I said.
I turned to the other two and explained the situation to them.
“If you two want to hike up there, Ben said he would take you but I am not heading up. I am not going to sleep in the snow in zero degree weather,” I said.
The other two goat hunters nodded in agreement. We watched the goats for a little longer and then fired up the boat and turned it back toward the harbor at Valdez. By now, the snow was coming down hard enough that we could not see very far in front of the boat. I had the sinking feeling that our goat hunt was about to go down the drain. We had not even got to unpack our rifles.
Within 45 minutes, we were approaching the harbor. It was now snowing like crazy. The forecast for the next two to three days looked no better. It was not official at the moment, but I knew our hunt was over. I was a little down. When we disembarked off the boat, we headed to the hotel. Upon arriving at the hotel, we checked and found out the airport was officially closed.
It then occurred to us that we may get stranded in Valdez for the winter if we did not find a way out and fast. Our guide Ben strolled up and mentioned that his brother was in town checking on his plane and was driving back to Anchorage that night. We quickly asked if we could hitch a ride with him. If we made it to Anchorage, we knew that we would be able to fly out of there. The problem was that Anchorage was 300 miles away, and it was now what I would call blizzard conditions.
We quickly packed our gear and changed out of hunting clothes into our traveling clothes in the hallway of the hotel and piled into the cargo van that Ben’s brother was driving and took off for Anchorage. We headed down the snow covered highway for Anchorage. The hunt was over!
We did not even get a chance because of the Alaskan weather. Unfortunately that is how it works up in this harsh country. As we pulled out of Valdez, I wondered if I would ever come back to this beautiful spot. I probably will, but it will be in the summer and I will be fishing instead of trying to hunt goats. It was a bitter pill to swallow but a good reminder that nothing is guaranteed in the hunting world.
Not every hunt will end the way you want it. I was just thankful that we were escaping the clutches of winter in Valdez and that I would not have to wait tables at the Fat Mermaid until next May!