Caribou, Me and You

Gypsies in a Camper

It was 1986 when my lover, Mark Schulze (now my husband), and I decided to sell or give away all our earthly possessions and travel around the United States and Canada for the next nine months in a small camper.


Wounded Caribou at Wonder Lake, DeNali

We bestowed our beloved television set and kitchen items to our friends and family.  While happy to receive these gifts, they were also concerned that Mark and I would disappear forever.

It was like the neighbors in “Revolutionary Road” who said they were happy that their friends (Kate Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio) were going to live in Paris.  However, they secretly wished Frank and April would just stay put like them.

Live For Each Day

But Mark and I were going. We didn’t know how long we’d be gone.  And we didn’t know if we would ever come back. That’s the beauty of it.  You live fully for each day as it comes.  Not for yesterday, and not for tomorrow, but for today. That was the entire gist of the trip. We traveled up the west coast, into and around Alaska, then across Canada and the northern U.S., all the way to the eastern seaboard.  Then we headed down to the tip of Florida, and back up through the southern states.  Then we returned home to San Diego.

Patty near tent across lake caribou

Patty next to the tent across Wonder Lake from the caribou

DeNali Wilderness

One of my favorite adventures was when Mark and I backpacked into the DeNali wilderness (formerly known as Mt. McKinley). We parked our Chinook in a gravel lot, and then we jumped on a bus into DeNali Park. We disembarked at the furthest point where we then hiked until we found a pretty spot near Wonder Lake. We set up our tent.  I was cooking dinner when Mark spotted a young caribou across the lake.

Caribou at DeNali Alaska 1986

Caribou at DeNali, Alaska, 1986

You can see he’s rather small.  But you can make out his studly figure. We both noticed that he was wounded and limping.

Safety in Numbers

Perhaps he felt safer with us there on the other side of the lake than by himself. I could understand that.  Because earlier that day Mark and I picked our way through some brambly bushes with the distinct odor of stinky socks rising around us. Alaskan sportspeople later informed us that grizzlies smell like dirty socks. We didn’t spot any grizzlies in THAT area, on THAT particular day.  But believe me, our antennae were up.

And Good Night

As the sun melted away from the day and the dusk descended, the caribou lay down to rest.  And then Mark and I crawled into our tent to do the same.

Next morning, the young caribou was gone. All that remains is the above photograph. Unfortunately, back in 1986, a pair of video producers such as we decided that it would be much too heavy for us to carry the video camera and VCR deck (you had to have both at the time, just to record any footage) into DeNali. Of course we’ve regretted it ever since.

Patty Mooney is a VP, Video Producer, Sound Technician and Editor at award-winning San Diego video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions.