continued from "Sheep Hunting...Weather's Finale"
On Thursday morning, at about the second pot of coffee and something like the twenty-fifth check of the NOAA website the change occurred. It took me a minute to pick out the small change after days of viewing it with the same repetitive forecast that accompanies these huge, slow moving low pressure systems.
"Rain, with low lying clouds and decreased visibility in the Eastern Mountains" became instead, "Partly Cloudy with clearing in the afternoon and increased chance of rain in the evening". In other words- sloppy just became partly sloppy.
Before my browser could fully load the page I had already cut and pasted the forecast into a text message and forwarded it to my partner. We had a single day left to hunt and it appeared that our weather lock down was being given by a rogue high pressure system that moved farther to the East than anticipated and would (at least temporarily) push the low pressure monster back over the mountains into Prince William Sound. I received a text from my partner almost immediately- "Tomorrow? What are you thinking?". I replied, " Day trip- pack light, essentials only, hike fast for search and destroy. Leave at 7a, back at dinner."
The reply came back quickly- "Cool."
As we motored south down the highway toward the mountain valley that held our hunt area the weather forecast didn't look accurate as the wipers slapped in rhythm on the windshield. Looking to the north, behind us, the sky was clearing with some blue patches showing so there was some validity to the premonition of the weatherman. As we parked the Jeep, the rain had slackened and we were able to begin our climb in rain gear to protect us from the water pouring off the foliage we had to pass through.
After a hard slog to 5500', we approached the ridge summit cautiously and peered over. We were both giddy with anticipation to see the ram in his favorite spot- hanging out with his two youthful sub legal buddies munching a favored plant that grew on the benches there.
The ram that wasn't there anymore.
As we picked our way off the mountain the high pressure that gave us such fair weather was starting to wane and the first clouds off the storm began to pour in over the high passes. By the time we reached the jeep a light drizzle started to fall. I had been on one of the hardest and most rewarding hunts of my life despite not harvesting an animal. I was ready to call it quits and give my battered body a rest and turn my attentions to caribou season now starting to pick up in earnest and look for moose in the lowland bogs in order to put some delicious meat in the freezer for the winter. By the time we reached my home, the view south was a solid wall of cloud and rain and wind. We had spent the only precious clear hours of the early season where we wanted to be- on the mountain among sheep.
Sheep season was over for me. It was my first experience seriously chasing sheep but it would not be my last. My partner and I are already discussing next August's foray to chase rams among the clouds.