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– Thanks – Ney
After a lengthy but enjoyable flight over the Arrigetch Peaks I landed on a gravel airstrip in Anaktuvuk Pass, a native village just on the north side of the Brooks Mountain Range and inhabited by the Nunamiut, the only inland Iñupiat (Eskimos) in Alaska. Anaktuvuk Pass is often reported as the coldest place in Alaska during the winter and although experiencing the midnight sun is pretty awesome they also have 72 straight days of no sun in the winter, which is hard to even imagine. The Nunamiut were a nomadic people following the Caribou and didn’t settle down until the 1950s.
Although it is gaining popularity as a place for hiking and even rafting (the John River and Anaktuvuk Rivers are floatable), visitors are still rare and the General Manager of the regional native corporation (most villages are set up as native corporations in order to provide an ability for them to be – or at least try to be – economically independent) saw me fly in and met me at the airport. He started as a tour guide and explained they have a store, café, etc. and a bit about the history. However, when he found out I’ve worked in an Alaska native village before and I’ve also worked with some native corporations in my business life we are soon in a lengthy discussion of the challenges and woes of native life. A fascinating discussion that we’ll continue over lunch when I return from backpacking.
We did agree it is a wonderful place for outdoor activities (even backcountry skiing in the spring) and they need to somehow get the word out. The village is in the process of remodeling their “lodge” from something best described as a “man camp” for construction workers to something more pleasant for tourists. Ultimately they would like to build a new lodge on a bare ridge above town.
I’m a little late heading out of town on my planned solo backpacking trip, but heck, you can walk all night if you want in the sun so I finally hike out of town at about 3:00 pm and put in 6 miles before stopping for the “night”.
It was fourth and last day on the water as I paddled up into Shoup Bay to see the glacier and spend the night before heading to Valdez. There is an actual river coming out of the head of the bay that I can’t paddle up, so I have to wait for after dinner when the high tide overwhelms the river and reverses flow, allowing me access to the glacial bay. Luckily some salmon fishermen told me this because I hadn’t done enough pre-trip planning to know the high tide will do that. Fortunately, you just don’t have worry about darkness so a “night” paddle up to see the glacier works just fine.
It was also an “opener” for Pink salmon so on the final paddle back the Prince William Sound was full of purse seining boats and their noisy skiffs, jockeying for position and dropping/dragging their nets around. I drifted around watching the full cycle of fishing before using the incoming tide and a lucky tailwind to paddle back into the harbor.
I spent the evening sorting gear and flight planning for the second half of the trip starting tomorrow – flying above the arctic circle to backpack in the Brooks Range.
So I zipped up the bivy sack (small one person bag/tent) I had purchased at REI for the trip. I woke up later with a panicked feeling and very rapid shallow breaths. Seriously suffocating. Even groggy and mostly out of it, I knew I needed air and managed to get the zipper open. That gave me immediate relief, but then I got sopping wet from the heavy rain for the rest of the night.
Really, they sell a bag with a full zipper that if you use it you die? And if you don’t you can’t keep the rain out? I acknowledge I didn’t fully read the tag (it didn’t come with directions), but I’m still stunned that there is a product like that. In the photo you can see the head of the bivy sack, with the hoop that runs over your head to keep the fabric off your head. I guess I was not paying attention to realize that there is no venting at all in the bag.