Blueberries, ripening along the ridgelines, tangy and sweet and sharp all at once… the constantly shifting colors of the near and far mountains… and the wind. That fierce, magical, relentless wind.
I stretched out on a carpet of alpine plants and exhaled fully. Finally. Jeff and I had deliberately wandered, finding our way softly up, up and up to trace ridgelines and explore river valleys with eyes and feet.
He first spotted the sentinel about 600 yards away, looking out over a distant valley. A beautiful, ¾ curl Dall sheep ram with an understated calm looked back at us, evaluating. Listening. We sat, quietly, for a long while. The ram sized us up and found no threat to his afternoon rest, turning his back and continuing to feed.
I crossed a small draw and wandered within camera range, careful to maintain a gentle distance and without any sudden moves. As I crested the ram’s ridgeline and looked over, I saw the other three Dall sheep just below. All were feeding peacefully and seemed unconcerned as I clicked off frame after frame. Eventually, I sat down on the ridge and just watched them for a while.
The sentinel became curious and headed toward us, slowly and easily, stopping to feed along the way. We quietly started walking back the way we’d come, not wanting to intrude or disrupt the sheep… but they were having none of it. Following us at a distance that quickly closed to about 10 yards, their curiosity getting the better of them, they meandered along behind us as we climbed up and over several ridgelines. We walked along, the six of us- an unlikely pairing of Wild Things- for a while.
Eventually, we parted ways as they stopped to graze on an especially juicy patch of grass. It has been eleven years since I had the privilege of being in the company of a group of Dall sheep, and it felt good to be shooting only with a camera- leaving no trace- and taking only pictures and memories with me.
These photos courtesy of Jeff, iPhone 4S...
sheep pics coming soon!