Sable Pass, Alaska 1968

Sable Pass is located in Denali National Park. It is an area where I frequently saw and photographed grizzly bears. In September, 1968 I traveled to the park but found the road had been closed by park authorities at Igloo Creek because of snow. However, some person had broken the padlock of the chain across the road. I did the wrong thing and proceeded past the road closure, climbed up through Sable Pass and crossed the Toklat River. I camped that night at Toklat and saw myself as the only human being in all that magnificent winter wilderness. It was a heady experience. I had little concern about possible danger. I was young, had a four-wheel drive vehicle with chains and felt invulnerable and immortal . . . almost.

I was awakened during the night by a chilling nightmare. I dreamed I was being pulled out of my pup tent by a grizzly bear! This thought was obviously on my subconscious mind, planted there by the many bear sightings I myself had experienced in this immediate area. I slept in my Ford Bronco the rest of the night. This was a 1967 Bronco, not the commodious utility vehicle bearing that marque today. It was very small, more like a small jeep. I had to put the tailgate down to sleep in it. At first dawn I was awakened by a small noise. I lifted my head, no doubt still worried about bears. There was a red fox curiously regarding me through the early dawn murk no more than 10 feet from my head.

I did not dare to go even further into the park than I had, knowing I was not supposed to be there. I went back to Park Headquarters and reported that the chain had been taken down. I admitted traveling to the Toklat River. Today, I probably would have received a ticket and been fined. In the late 60's things were not so strict in the National Parks as they have become in recent years. As it was the ranger was just exasperated and explained that the barriers are closed to protect people from coming to grief on this very hazardous mountain road. He, or someone, had a 40 mile return trip to attend to the broken lock.

I will always remember that night. The small scene of Sable Pass that opens my home page was taken in the late afternoon of that day. The picture at the top of this page was a bit earlier in the fall. The shot below was, of course, taken in a different season entirely but careful viewers will see the mountains are the same. The shot on the bottom of the page is of me and the little Bronco in Sable pass on the afternoon of that day.

It was a long time ago and Sable Pass seems far away in both time and place. The bottom picture is me, as a much younger man, at the time of this great adventure. The little vehicle was my first. The picture shows me looking out to the mountains in Sable Pass on the afternoon that I drove past the chain barrier.


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