So I got back from Alaska about 2 weeks ago now. There has been a bit of a delay in me posting photos because I went straight to Minnesota for work, and now am in Vegas (VEGAS!!!!) for a delayed birthday celebration. Hope you enjoy the photos, etc.
My trip up north did not start out too well. My flight to Fairbanks was scheduled on the day that Delta totally crashed. Well their computer system did anyway, I guess it’s poor form to refer to airlines crashing. But anyway, after my flight had been delayed several times, the Delta rep announced that we would begin pre-boarding in 5 minutes. And then the next announcement was that the flight was cancelled because we did not have a flight crew for it. That seems like a pretty dramatic change of tune but whatever. So then of course there is the mass mob of angry passengers making a bum rush on all available ticket counter agents. After several hours of trying to get on flights that never quite worked out, several rounds of wine and snacks from the Delta club, and trying not to cry from frustration on more than one occasion, I finally put up the white flag and accepted a flight for the next day. I must have really looked terrible (I had worked an overnight shift, packed for the trip, and then came straight to the airport so at this point had been awake for about 30 hours…..), because one of the Delta ladies took pity on me and put me up in a really nice hotel by the airport and arranged for transportation for me.
My brief respite was shattered when flights started becoming delayed later and later the following day as well. I finally got into Fairbanks 3 hours after originally planned. But at least I made it to Alaska. But I still had a ways to go. After lugging what felt like 200 pounds of gear and a gun case to my hotel, I treated myself to a beer and ate almost an entire pizza. Don’t judge me…..
The plan was for me to get on a smaller airline, Wright Air Service, in the morning to get on a Cessna Caravan that would fly me up to Anaktuvuk Pass. This is a very tiny town without any roads leading to it in the interior of Alaska. My hunting outfitter, Rich Guthrie, was to pick me up there in his Piper SuperCub and we would fly to the main hunting cabin at Galbraith Lake. But of course, nothing can go smoothly, and the weather was too poor for Rich to be able to make it in. So then I changed my flight to a different tiny town, Coldfoot, because at least this one had a road leading in and out of it. When the Caravan touched down on the gravel runway, I was relieved to see Rich and my guide, Nate Turner, waiting for the plane to pull up. I finally made it…. We took a 3 hour drive up the Dalton Highway with the mountains and the pipeline as our constant companions.
The next day, Nate and I were dropped off to begin our hunt. The flight to the river valley was just gorgeous. The tundra rolls out in undulating waves in every direction. Narrow streams wind underneath a tight cover of willows. We saw a few caribou grazing on hillsides.
We touched down gently on the tundra, and suddenly I was at my home away from home for the next 10 days. The tundra close up is not monochromatic at all, but is a riot of different colors – patches of red compete with yellows and greens along with the omnipresent blueberry plants. The textures of the tundra too are very different with tight clumps of tussocks acting as islands in swampy spots. To walk over the ground is almost like walking in a bouncy house with a definite spring and push back as you lift your feet. I had never been in a landscape like this, and I loved it. The novelty of eating wild blueberries never wore off even after consuming about 50 pounds of the little blue buggers.
The week spent out in the bush was so much fun, and my hunt was a successful one. The weather ranged from hot with the sun in your eyes, to freezing cold and shivering by the time that we walked back to camp. The only constant was the bugs. I can’t believe that you can be sitting there, freezing your keister off, and still be getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Alaska is a crazy place… Rich and Nate are two absolutely stand up guys and I could not have enjoyed getting to know them more. I would love to go back up to Alaska again to hunt with them. I can’t even tell you how great they treated me and what a neat deal the whole experience was. And I was sad having to leave both Nate and Rich behind. I would say that my first visit to Alaska was both a successful and memorable one!
Here is a week out on the tundra in photos: