My boss dropped me off for a couple-week backpacking trip, that got inadvertently extended because of weather issues. I didn't mind. He flew me onto his pioneered landing strip on the Canning River drainage in ANWR---about 200 miles into the refuge----and then promptly left.
The plane leaving me behind for the next weeks. By day 8 I started singing and talking to myself, but hey, at least I didn't start calling my backpack "Wilson" or anything.
|First night of setting up camp. A bit exposed, especially when the winds started howling.|
Lots of blueberries to supplement my diet. I hadn't been planning on being out so long, so by the end I started rationing out the beef jerky and oatmeal packets. Jerky+blueberries is a surprisingly delicious combination. By the last day I was eating 4 beef jerky slices and half an oatmeal packet per day.
There was lots of map reading involved to make sure I could find my way to the designated landing strip.
Foot-care seemed to be a reoccurring issue. At one point I took off my Keens and just walked barefoot several miles on the marshy tundra to give my feet some rest from the rub. At this point I felt very much like a hobbit marching to Mordor.
Ducktape saves the day. The poor man's moleskin (or forgetful in this case).
I found some 'auf' ice, which is ice that accumulates in river beds (pronounced "off ice"). Crossing a two mile stretch of it was like trying to ice skate with a 30 lb. weight attached to your back. There were a lot of near-falls, and I must have looked ridiculous to any hunters that may have been in the area.
|Crossing this stuff without crampons was a bit of a bitch.|
|Note to self: bring trekking poles next time...or gain the ability to transform into a mountain goat.|
A caribou I scared at the pass.
Sundown wasn't until after 11pm, so I had a lot of time to kill. I'd hike for about 10 hr/day, but after that I figured it was time to relax or something.
So I was productive. I finished the 450 page technical textbook "Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills"---even the parts about Aid Climbing and placing pitons, although it was the 5th ed, so I may need to check out the newest book to make sure I haven't memorized something too outdated (they barely mention leashless ice tools, and write that curved-shaft ice tools are rarely used and only by a fringe minority).
If you don't bring a stove, then you literally have nothing left to do in the evenings but read and sleep.
|A long roundabout detour followed this dead-end.|
My awesome boss outfitted me with lots of food, which I could only access after I completed my initial stove-less trek. Hooray for hot meals!
Beef jerky is heavenly for snacking on. Seriously. It's like a steak-flavored granola bar. I'm a fan.
The temperatures also started dropping, so that I had to start keeping my water bottle in my sleeping bag to keep it from turning into a block of ice at night.
My bear weapon.
I called my boss on the Satellite phone every morning to see if the storm front had moved through, but every morning he said that it would be too dangerous to fly out to try and lift me out. Oh well, basecamp dayhikes are awesome anyways.
|How do my legs always get this scratched up even while wearing pants? It's a mystery.|
Figuring out where to go for the day.
Like I said... the footwear problem was a continuous nuisance throughout the trip.
You find out a lot about yourself when you're alone for 24 hrs a day. Plus you learn how to entertain yourself during the long, lonely, cold hours of the night.
Can you see the Grizzly bear? He was moving at about 35 mph towards my camp when I spotted him. I watched as he passed within 100 ft. of my tent and then kept going downstream. I was a bit more alert that night when I was drifting off to sleep...
|Yeah I know this picture sucks, but I only have one wide-angle lens. I need a new lens. One that can preferably zoom.|
I wish I was actually good enough at photography to capture the magnificence of this moment.
I worked hard for that pile of firewood.
Here's a normal one:
These Dall sheep came over the ridge and were very surprised to see me crouched down scarfing down blueberries.
Do you know how cold that water is? I decided that for my boss's sake I should at least make an effort to wash off the dirt and grime before he picked me up. Spending two hours in a small bush plane would not help the backpacker smell.
Best part of the whole trip was when one morning I was woken up by howls right outside my tent. I peaked out and saw an Arctic Wolf sitting about 150 ft. from my tent. He howled for about an hour with my input of the best wolf howl imitation I could muster. I'm surprised he didn't run away after my first yowl.
Yeah... being alone for a period of time makes you introspective and you begin sounding all spiritual and shit. Anyway, I was just lucky to be at the right place at the right time to witness this animal.
For those interested, I posted a video message for a friend, but the wolf features prominently. I think there's a few of my grotesque attempts at some howls in there as well. If you're curious, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DjGax5v08o&feature=plcp
My boss finally made a heroic break through the clouds, maneuvered around the heart of the storm and managed to get me out before the next round of hideous weather came in. More than a few days late, but I wasn't bothered (apart from the very real threat of no more food. I had 8 sticks of jerky left and an oatmeal packet by the time he got to me)
My boss is a pilot god. Seriously. He flies the DHC-2 Beavers with such finesse that you'd think they were made of balsa wood.