Flying to Alaska Day Eight – Anaktuvuk Pass
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”.