Alaska: The Last Frontier. That's what the car tag states. I'm geared up (and packed up) to experience it for myself.
I've never been to Alaska, but from everything I've read and heard - it truly is the Last Frontier. Even then, I won't just be visiting the cities or sailing by the coast on a cruise ship. Rather, I will be spending eight days in what must be considered "truly" the Last Frontier - backpacking where there are no roads, no trails, and likely no other people encountered.
Welcome to The Gates of the Artic National Park, along the Brooks Range in northern Alaska. I'm told so wild and so remote, unlike anything most have (or will ever) experience. It is a place and a trip which is quite possibly a once in a lifetime experience. And if not once in a lifetime, certainly memories for a lifetime. With a lot of excitement, and a (more than) healthy dose of respect for this wild place, I'm on the way to Fairbanks, Alaska today and enroute to the the Gates of the Artic tomorrow!
How is this possible? Well, I am incredibly fortunate to be joining up with Andrew Skurka Adventures for the second year in a row. Last year I spent an amazing five days of backpacking through remote corners of Yosemite National Park. This year's eight day expedition through Gates of the Artic National Park provides the opportunity to build upon my backpacking expertise and take my wilderness navigation skills to the next level.
I am certain this will be the toughest adventure experience I've ever put myself through (both physically and mentally). But I'm also certain it will be a life changing experience (which I can't comprehend yet). Looking forward to seeing what it takes to survive, but also to what the wilderness gives back to me in return. Read more about Alaska, a few trips notes, and my gear snapshot below. Stay tuned - much more to come post-trip!
Alaska...Did You Know
If you are like I was, you might need a little introduction to Alaska at this point. Here are a few notes that I found interesting when researching Alaska myself! In Seattle I live nearly as far north and west as you can possibly get in the continental United States. Alaska "seems" close, but not really. The flight from Seattle to Alaska is just over 1,500 miles. That is nearly the same distance as a flight halfway across the country from Seattle to Dallas, TX. Also, Alaska is enormous. It's landmass is about 1/5 the size of the continental United States.
Another interesting fact - the sun will not set during our backpacking trip! Once we leave Fairbanks and head north towards the Gates of the Arctic, we will cross the Arctic Circle. During the Northern Hemisphere summer, the earth tilts towards the sun, with the areas above the Artic Circle in direct sunlight for 24 hours a day (although low in the horizon, so mild sun exposure). You may have heard Alaska called the "land of the midnight sun" and that will absolutely be our experience for eight days. Should be an interesting adjustment, but I think I will enjoy it not being pitch dark when I have to get out of the tent for a midnight bathroom break!
If you are interested in reading about the conditions I will experience in the Alaska backcountry, read Andrew's 2019 pre-trip report. The article outlines the key conditions to expect and the environmental/route considerations that we will need to manage. This year Alaska has had a bit of a late spring, so we have planned for more cold and wet than normal, but less bug pressure (for a positive). Fingers crossed for a sunnier, warmer forecast on the horizon!
Here are a few quick stats on our expedition logistics:
Given the unique conditions and logistics of executing a trip in Alaska, I'm bringing a few additional pieces of gear that I normally would not. Mostly this gear addresses the expected cold and wet conditions including: down pants, thermal top and pants for sleeping, wool socks for sleeping, and waterproof gloves. But let's not forget the sleep mask (because the sun never sets) and the bear spray!
When the group arrives in Fairbanks we will have a gear check and last minute conditions update. We may be able to take some items out (and reduce pack weight) based on the weather report. Here are a few quick stats on the gear and food that I'll be carrying: