Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coldfoot Beginnings



Exploring the northern reaches of Alaska has been high on my priority list since I read Jack London's Call of the Wild (in Russian) as a ten-year-old. So I applied for work across the state, and 4 hours after completing my Multivariable Calculus exam, I flew to Fairbanks, and then by bush plane to Coldfoot to start my new job.  I wanted to hitchhike up to Alaska from the lower 48, but I had time constraints. Oh well, another time.

                                                

I worked full-time at the Camp Cafe and at a family bush-plane company named Coyote Air as a part-time, do-it-all girl 5 days a week.
                                        
Simple, mindless jobs, but the perks were enticing: free housing,  free food, free bush-plane flights, access to remote wilderness straight off the front porch, and not spending any money all summer.  It was the ideal workplace: about 13 workers aged 19-27, and some older folks (I was the youngest).


If you were wondering: yes, Coldfoot is the place that they film the "Ice Road Truckers" show for the Discovery Channel, and yes I met Lisa, Jesse and some other regulars filmed driving the Haul Road, and YES the show is a complete joke.

For future reference, Jack Jesse likes ham-cheddar sandwiches with two pickles wrapped in tinfoil. He also has a worn-out photo of a pin-up girl he keeps on his truck's dashboard (I hitched a ride with him once).
Bonfire With Chad--best boss ever.
We burned several dressers on this particular night
Midnight Sun: swimming in the
Koyukuk River 5 minutes from my tent at 2 am
The glorified tent: my home for 5 months
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Drinking is a part of the culture up here
My sleeping roommate on a  somewhat sagging bed...
To summarize the summer: fording rivers, sliding uncontrollably down scree slopes, building fires, stalking dall sheep on cliffs, flying bush planes, crazy, gun-toting-miners, gold-filled-trucks, 3000 miles of hitchhiking, back-country near-death experiences, drinking under the aurora, illegally climbing government-owned-pipelines, getting chased by moose and some sweet, awesome midnight-sun bonfires.
Some interesting people I met:
  • a 50-year-old guy that WALKED from Argentina to the Arctic Ocean with a push-cart
  • A National Geographic 2008 Adventurer of the Year that was traversing the entire Brooks Range solo, and greatly appreciated the food I gave him
  • Two guys from China filming a show for the Chinese Travel Channel, in which they were going to hitchhike from the Arctic Ocean to the tip of Argentina (they had already hitchhiked from Beijing to Berlin a couple of years prior)
They filmed me for their first episode...
so apparently I'm going to be on Chinese tv
  • A wealthy man, who looks like Elton John’s twin, and his family, who gave up their luxurious life in Manhattan and now live a subsistence lifestyle on the eastern edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in a cabin. Their girl is named Willow, short for “Willow Tree”, because when she was born the spring willows sprouted their first buds. Their son is Wolf, short for “Wolf Song”, because all throughout the pregnancy there was a wolf pack that howled every winter night.
Chad (the camp boss) has 28 sled dogs, and last year a rogue grizz attacked them in the middle of the night, killing 5 of his beloved dogs. So Chad went out in the snow and unloaded his .38 revolver into its face, successfully killing it. On a brighter note, we had two litters of puppies while I was here. Winchester (pictured in the center) is the father

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