National Geographic : 1993 Apr
Muscling to the hori zon-and900 miles beyond- the peaks of the Brooks Range beckoned me onward from thejunjik River Valley, approaching the halfway point in my trip.Broadriver valleys andgame trails were my high ways through this rugged land. support, I wanted to recapture and experience, fully and firsthand, the physical-and the psychological-isolation confronted by past explorers. Therefore, resupply points would occur only at the four villages and one lodge along the route, and no radio or tracking devices would be carried or air support arranged between the resupply points. But I did invite my friend Paul Lowe-better known as Pappy-to join me. This was the plan: We would stock up on provisions at Fort McPherson and take two dog teams and sleds (loaded with several hundred pounds of food and supplies) 300 miles to Old Crow in the Yukon Territory and then across northeastern Alaska to Arctic Village. There we would trade the dogs for more food and supplies and hike 395 miles west along the spine of the Brooks Range, through the village of Anaktuvuk Pass, to a lodge on Walker Lake in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. At the lake we would load everything into a waiting canoe, pole 40 miles up the lake and its tributary, then portage a mountain pass to the headwaters of the Noatak River. Finally, we'd float 425 miles down the Noatak through Noatak village to Kotzebue. All this before freeze-up in late October. But the wilderness has its own plans. On March 13, 1989, Pappy and I set out from Fort McPherson. Most of the town turned out to see us off, and rifle-fire echoed from a 21-gun salute O December 20, 1989. O October 15,1989. 0 August 24, 1989. Noatak villagers dub me Wolves serenade me at my Months of solo travel Pisruuktii-the "walking campsite. Within days the nurture a deep kinship man." Having survived cold river freezes, and I am forced with the land; here I and hunger, I spend a 162. to abandon my canoe. 156' advance effortlessly, thankful Christmas here.. / / like the caribou. SOctober ,1989. FINISH: January 10, 1990. My race against winter's I reach the frozen sea be- freeze-up begins. I retrieve a neath a bone white Arctic cached canoe at this lake and moon. Some 1,460 miles of shove off for the westward wilderness lies behind me. flowing Noatak River.