Until this summer, Alaska was for me what Patagonia is to many of you: an enthralling land of extremes and wildness that I'd imagined for years but never visited. As June and July brought winter snows and frosts to Chile, we traveled far, far north to Alaska's Brooks Range, a 1000-mile chain of mountains above the Arctic Circle.
In unending summer daylight, we packrafted the Alatna River and circumambulated the Arrigetch Peaks, within the 8.4 million acre Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Exploring a totally new landscape via our feet and boats reminded us of the wonder that getting to know a wild place can bring. We walked a grizzly cub learn to climb a tree, and heard a wolf howling from a bluff above our boats. Caribou entertained us with their strutting and sauntering; Dall sheep visited us bathing at a mountain hot spring.
In parallel, we learned that the State of Alaska plans to build a 220-mile industrial access road that would cross Gates of the Arctic and open a vast area up to mining. Here's a piece I wrote for The Cleanest Line, Patagonia's blog, about the project. If you're concerned (as I am), considering signing this petition to protest the roadbuilding.
Now back to the frontcountry and diving into planning Chulengo's next season in Patagonia, we're still sorting through stories and reading tales of Alaska exploits while shifting our attention to the far south. For now, the highlights in photos below.