As I hike out of Anaktuvuk Pass village, over a slight rise and down to the Anaktuvuk River I’m struck with how immensely vast this place is and how incredibly small I feel. I follow Argo tracks for about 4 miles before they disappear and then I’m cross country on lumpy, hard-to-walk on tundra until about 10 or 11:00 pm when I decide to stop for the night. Here are some things you may wonder about:
Bears. Whereas while kayaking I felt OK with pepper spray because the bears had plentiful food with salmon and other kayakers around. Here, it’s different. There are no polar bears because they don’t come this far inland, but there are grizzly bears and they are hungry. Statistically there is a significantly greater chance of a bear encounter in the Arctic north with solo hikers over groups. Which to me infers they HUNT you. So I brought a .357 Magnum revolver along with pepper spray. I vow to keep calm during any “false charge” that grizzlies are known for and to use the pepper spray first, but I acknowledge it is impossible to really say what one would do without actually being in that situation. I yell, “hey bear” when I’m bushwacking through thickets along the river, but I’m not really sure if what the bear hears is, “Hot Dogs, git yer hot dogs here!”. It turns out it was good I brought a gun because on day 3 I realized I didn’t bring enough food so I shot a caribou and ate it for dinner.
The Sun. The sun plays a cruel trick on me. Although after some thought I decide it probably does that every night but I just didn’t anticipate its movements correctly. The summer temps average in the low 60s but it is in the 70s and because I need to be in my sleeping bag and bivy sack due to bugs, I would really like some shade. After some effort I find a flat gravel bar along the river next to a stand of alder trees shading the sun. It is also a great place for a bear to sneak up on me, but I decide it’s more important to have shade. However, the sun not only didn’t go down, it swung quickly along the horizon. So after about an hour, maybe around midnight, the sun came out from behind the alder trees and I was in the sun the rest of the night. The good news was that a bear didn’t come out and eat me.