National Geographic : 1979 Dec
camp, there is harmonica music and a verse or two from Edward Paramore about the frozen Far North and lusty men for whom "its icy arms hold hidden charms. ... " It was overcast when I reached the up per watershed, barely one step ahead of the pack-laden mules. End-of-summer mountainsides were painted in broad strokes: ocher cliffs, gray talus, yellowing willow brush, and russet tundra. Near a small waterfall I left Joe and climbed to a ridge where I could look around at the cold blue lips of glaciers overflowing the core of the wildlife range-the highest peaks in the Arctic Circle outside Greenland. Clouds settled lower onto the slopes, and the wind carried an unmistakable smell: winter. Late that evening of August 6, it began to snow, frosting my clothes and promising more ice for the patient glaciers. By October, nearly continuous daylight would give way to darkness at six in the evening. First the North Slope would whit en with migrating snow geese; then would come lasting whiteness. Finally, from late November through half of January, nights would be lit by the shimmering neon of the aurora borealis. Coastal temperatures would reach as low as 60° below zero F-160 degrees below the body temperature of the umingmak, musk-ox, the great carpeted Ice Age beast that paws through the snow for food then. Joe planned to stay in the Sheenjek to guide trophy sheep hunters from August 10 until the snows arrived and forced him out. The Arctic Wildlife Range is part of the Na tional Wildlife Refuge System,* adminis tered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; fishing, hunting, and trapping are allowed within the framework of the state's regula tions. The hunters of sheep, grizzlies, moose, wolves, and caribou make up the largest group among the four hundred to six Pitfalls and pests await those who test the Arctic's rigors.Author Chadwick uses a campfire to dry a book (right), drenched when a kayak capsizedin the rushingKon gakut River. Repairingboat damage,pho tographerGeorgia and the author'swife, Karen, wear head nets (left) to keep mos quitoes atbay. hundred nonnative people now visiting the Arctic Wildlife Range each year. Four to six hundred people. Each year in my home state of Montana, more than a mil lion and a half people pass through Glacier National Park, one-ninth the size of the Arc tic Wildlife Range. When I returned, Gla cier was going to seem more tame than before, no matter how wild those visitors think it. WITH WINTER on the way so early, it was time for me to say good-bye to Joe Want and, soon after, to the Far North. Memories have a way of fading like the blue silver colors of a freshly caught grayling, but if I close my eyes, I can still hear and smell and see one very special scene: the time in early July when the cari bou merged into one gigantic herd to begin the first stage of their trek eastward. For days the animals had been congregat ing on the coastal plain, and the growing bands began to pulse with their imperative to move. As Lowell and I waited for them behind a distant hill, Walt Audi, our ever timely pilot, mailman, and grocer, landed his plane on the riverbank. *See the March 1979 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC for a series of articles on U. S. refuges.