Monday, August 25, 2008

Arctic in August

My friend Brad takes an annual trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Before I go on, note the name of the refuge--Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. not Alaska Refuge, and certainly not ANWR. Too often the media uses these other names, which are either mistakes or an oil company concoction to reduces the significance of the place. But I digress...

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a huge place, 19 million acres, located in the northwest corner of Alaska, above the arctic circle. Of that total, 8 million acres are designated wilderness, and are some of the wildest and most spectacular landscapes on the planet.

There are several great rivers that come off the heights of the Brooks Range, draining down the north slopes and the south slopes. What Brad has been doing the past few years in the refuge is hiking and floating rivers using a pack raft, an extremely lightweight but durable single person raft that can easily be lugged up to the top of a drainage and then used to float back down. These things have revolutionized travel in the Alaska backcountry.

Brad heads into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with friends and alone. This time he's heading in alone. While a risky things to do, it's also reasonable for someone who is prepared and has the judgment and luck necessary. Trips to the Refuge can be done fairly easily, either through a commercial outfitter, or on your own. We did a trip a few years back on our own and it was pretty easy to plan and much cheaper than a commercial trip.

I expect to hear back from Brad sometime next week.