Good-bye Fairbanks and ice lattes! Today I leave for the wilderness.
This morning we are flying out to the cabin in this (pic attached), a 5-seater helio courier plane. The skies are clear so the views should be amazing, and I hope the trip will be a smooth one. On our route out, we will follow the Yukon River to the town of Fort Yukon and then fly north across the Porcupine to the Coleen River, and then north again to the cabin. There we will land on a gravel bar and use a canoe to transport our gear across the river to the cabin site. It’s a 3 -hour flight and, during that time, we will fly over a great chunk of the Alaskan Interior. I will not be blogging again, but rest assured that I will be making plentiful notes and will write again as soon as I am back in Fairbanks in early August.
Spent my first day at the Fairbanks dump—don’t ask. Not exactly the wilds of Alaska, but still I met many wild and colorful characters, scroungers, and vagabonds, with their vehicles full of all their worldly possessions. They mistook me for one of them and inducted me into their club. We talked scrounging, self-sufficiency and how one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One guy said he’d decorated his entire cabin with stuff scrounged from the dump.
I got a quick tour of Fairbanks, as my dad and I rushed across town in Heimo’s gas-guzzler of a truck gathering cabin-building materials for Heimo and provisions for our trip. We went on a wild goose chase for some twelve-inch cabin spikes and a Thermacelle insect repellent lantern, guaranteed to keep all mosquitoes away. Apparently it works, though, because every store we went to was sold out. Our search led us all across the city and to the far corners of town. It was here that I found probably the most amusing of Fairbanks’ many quirks: “Show Girls,” the local club. I couldn’t resist including a photo. I guess everything is wild in Alaska.
I find myself at the beginning of a journey, bound for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s last great wildernesses. My father will be my travel companion and together with my dad’s cousin, Heimo Korth, a veteran of the Alaskan bush, we will learn how to survive life in the wilderness.
In Alaska, my home will be my tent, my bed will be a mat, my bathroom will be a hole in the ground, my water will come from the river or from a spring, and my food will be whatever we manage to kill, catch or gather. Over the course of the next year, I will be making four trips to the Alaskan Arctic, staying for one month each season. For my first trip, we will help Heimo Korth build a new cabin from scratch and then head for the high country in search of caribou.
And, so, unlike most kids my age, I will not be spending my summer vacationing at a summer-house, tanning at the pool, shopping with friends on State Street, or binge-watching Pretty Little Liars for hours (as I may have under normal circumstances). Instead I will be 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, 3 hours by bush plane from Fairbanks, in one of the most remote and isolated places in the world, swatting clouds of mosquitoes, and praying I won’t encounter an angry mother grizzly (a sow) protecting her cubs or a territorial moose. In other words, I will be in the middle of nowhere. There is a better chance of reaching Santa at the North Pole than reaching Aidan Campbell in the Arctic.