Visual Narrative #016 – Caribou: Gift of the Gods

VN #016: Caribou: Gift of the Gods
Posted January 28, 2024


Caribou: Gift of the Gods

I had a reputation out west in the Chilcotin; if you want to go on a guided pack trip into the Itcha Mountains to see herds of caribou, make sure Harris is not on the same trip. You will never see more than one!

2009 was the last year to capture imagery for my upcoming book Motherstone: British Columbia’s Volcanic Plateau, and because I knew a herd of Itcha Ilgatchuz woodland caribou migrated through the Itcha Volcano, I planned a 10-day photographic expedition. My wife Rita and friend Mike and I were to traverse the volcano; I was determined to capture an image of more that one caribou!

During the year before the trip, I continuously dreamt of coming over a pass, peering down into Ptarmigan Basin, and seeing 100’s of caribou.

Staying optimistic

I was so excited when we hiked over the pass. The weather, however, was terrible; wet snow and then rain. I was still optimistic as I struggled to keep my lens dry.

Oh No. Just one!

Eventually, as we arrived at a place where I could look down into Ptarmigan Basin, the rain stopped. I scanned the valley for caribou, but saw none. My heart began to sink, when suddenly, a lone bull appeared on the ridge. I cleaned my lens of any traces of water, and began to photograph. I could hardly contain myself.

Then I realized, oh no; once again, just one.

Then there were more….

It seemed like a miracle. More caribou were not only following the bull, they were following the ridgeline as well. I kept shooting.

…and then more

The hundreds of caribou I kept seeing in my dreams were now on the move before my very eyes. I secretly followed them, hiding behind small patches of alpine fir. While heading for the pass we had just come over, they climbed over a snow pack, leaving the northern rough fescue in the valley behind them. The fortuitous contrast was a blessing.

Then it happened!

As if a gift from the Gods, a bull caribou led a small independent herd over a small undisturbed snow pack; it was in the open, and just around the corner from where I stood. I tried to stay calm, focusing on my technique and composition.

This was a celebration of a lifetime. My dream was fulfilled.


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