Last Sunday was the opening day of grouse season, and Matt spent the afternoon out hunting with my dad, my brother, and our pastor. He agreed to share his account of their afternoon here:
We didn't actually see any grouse at all. The middle of the day is not a prime time to find grouse, as they usually come out to eat in the morning and evening. They are generally found near roads or trails, because they eat little pebbles from the road, to fill a crop in their throat that pre-grinds the food they eat. My understanding is that most grouse hunting is done by walking down a trail until they scare out of a bush and fly into a tree.
We ended up exploring a road that goes out of town quite far. Well, it isn't really a road, it's more of a trail for ATVs or snow machines (mobiles). A lot of people use the trail to get to their favorite moose hunting spots in the fall and winter, including a friend of Rosalie's dad, who said we were welcome to use his spot whenever we would like to. The camp is over 20 miles off the main road, but we weren't sure EXACTLY where it was, so we didn't get all the way to it.
Rosalie's brother rode with me in our jeep, and her dad rode in Father's jeep. Father's jeep was much more customized for things like this trail, with things like extra wide/large tires, and a winch on the front, but our jeep didn't have much trouble either. Since Father's jeep also had a CB radio in it, Rosalie's brother got his CB from his truck and put it in our jeep for the trip. This allowed us to communicate between the vehicles while we were moving. Her brother and I followed the other jeep out and back, 17-18 miles each way. The drive was fun, challenging, and beautiful. The majority of the trail runs from overlook to overlook, along ridges and hillsides, with woods and more hills as far as the eye can see. To the north, very far off in the distance, we could see the peaks of the White Mountains, that run across the northern part of the state from east to west. When we got out the binoculars, we could barely make out the radio towers that are back where the trail started, at Cleary Summit. Here are some pictures from the farthest point we made it to.
The trail there and back was pretty well maintained, but heavily rutted from constant use of ATVs during the summer and fall. This meant I had to drive with one wheel on the center ridge, and the other on the side of the trail, to avoid scraping the bottom of the jeep on the many rocks and roots there. We crossed a number of shallow streams, and climbed more than a few very steep hills. Had we known the way to the moose camp, I have no doubt we could have made it there in our vehicles.
Trucks tend to be what everyone in Fairbanks drives and believes is the best vehicle for everything, but there is no way a huge truck could have done what the jeeps did without getting stuck. It was fun to find something that our vehicle could do that a truck could not.
When I pulled into the post office parking lot the other day, the jeep still covered in mud from their adventure, a guy parked next to me in his nice clean jeep and laughed. "That's the sign of a happy jeep owner," he said, nodding to the mud on the roof. "I have to go get mine dirty again." It's too bad they didn't find any grouse, but there's still plenty of grouse season left, and I'm glad they got out and had fun!