The knoll is the small hill in the center of the photo.
And this turns out to be the beginning of obstacles. We find the access to the knoll, and fully explore the area for any sign of sheep. There is plenty of sign, in the form of sheep scat, and all of it looks very very old. It does not appear that the rams have used this area much in the last year. Sitting on some high ground, waiting for the grand arrival of the long-lost herd, we see four sheep grazing on a ridge on the next knoll down the road, which will involve about another km of travel, and a few hundred feet in elevation gain. Carolyn suggests that they are probably further away than they look. Raising and hefting my pack, I concede the point and observe that there is but one way to find out. We set off. Wildlife photography is akin to hunting, and uses many of the same skills. (I have been having fun telling people I am off to shoot sheep. My friends of more delicate sensibilities are all aghast until they realize I am referring to my Nikon, and not a cannon). We follow the rules, and approach from upwind, under the cover of forest, taking the high ground to be able to look down on them. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray and leave us little but disappointment and pain for promised joy. We arrive, and they are long gone. I can see however that this is a better used knoll as it is full of fresh sheep scat and the smell confirms the more recent usage. Howsoever, no sheep, and at this point we have well used up the day, and head for home.
Upon arrival back at the Death Star, I am fairly bushed, beat and cold, and looking forward to some heat and a hot toddy. Next obstacle. The Death Star is out of propane! Obviously an oversight of the friend from whom I borrowed the rig, but the bottom line is that we have no way to stay warm or feed ourselves. Nothing to do but head down the road. The question is, how far? The nearest town is Haines Junction, and it is a Sunday evening, which means NOTHING will be open. This turns out to be true. There is one store in town that sells propane, and they will open tomorrow. There are two restaurants in town that are open, and they are both Chinese. We do manage to wrangle two burgers and two cups of coffee from one, and $35 later the decision must be made: spend the night in Haines Jct without heat, or return to Haines (150 miles away) because it does not look like we are going to find the sheep we came to shoot. Dharma is to overcome obstacles. We have traveled far in our quest. If we leave it now undone, there will be no chance of success. (Side note: we have returned from our southern quarters in the Mojave Desert early in the hopes of finding the sheep before their molt. A lot of plans have focused on putting us here now at this point in time and space.) If we return to our camp site, we may not have success, but we will also have the chance of success. I put my cascading series of frustrations and disappointments aside, and we resolve to throw extra covers on the bed and snuggle closer and get through the freezing night and pass some gas in the morning.
On the way back to Sheep Mountain the next day, it starts to snow. Horizontally. Now this is very interesting, because I had quietly decided the previous day, while watching questionable weather gather, that I would head for home in Haines if the weather was not with us, since the likelihood of accessible sheep was questionable. Now I am thinking maybe I should have made a different decision last night, but I am pointed west, momentum on my side, and we make camp. Slowly the weather clears, and we once again head down the old highway. We hike up to the second knoll, following a casual path we had spotted the day before. Lots of sheep scat, no sheep. The view however, is beyond compare, and the sun warms us as we lie amidst the juniper bushes covering the slope. From our vantage I can look off to the Slims River in the distance and see the old bridge pilings that crossed the river when the original Alcan Highway was built in the 1940's. Well, if I cannot shoot sheep, I can shoot some old wood in a frozen river. It is my dharma. I must make photographs, and take advantage of every obstacle that presents a new opportunity. The day is heaven sent. We walk down a frozen flood plane issuing out of Sheep Creek that presents what appears to be a clear path through the forest down the old highway. It is a winter wonderland amidst the grace of an early spring. In places the forest has grown up and obscured the old highway, but we follow the ice, which creates a hard floor through the forest that is beyond magic. (A photo would not do this justice, as it would just look like snow.) We can hear the cascading of water beneath the ice as it travels unseen channels. We realize that winter (spring?) is perhaps the only time these relic pilings would be accessible. It is an opportunity well seized, to stand amidst these obscure historic and all-but-forgotten relics.