We pushed off onto the Koyukuk from Wiseman at 6 pm on the 17th of July. A little later in the day than we had intended! But we were all hooting and hollering with excitement nonetheless. With Alaska’s summer nights there was no darkness to stop us from going as far as we pleased.
I’ve run that section of river at least one hundred times but not since 2012. It was strange and good to be back at the top of Koyukuk country. And this time was different. This time we were going beyond the road system and then west. Land that I had never seen. A good 350 miles of it with four of the best people I know. We are on a mission to raise awareness to protect this last wild place.
I would stand in front of the Brooks Range if I could, eyes level with the Beaufort Sea, right shoulder in front of the Kobuk and Noatak, left shoulder in front of ANWR’s wildest places, and my beating heart over Koyukuk Country. Any attempts at desecration I would swat away in an instant.
But, at 5’6″, I am a few feet short of 400 miles tall and hopefully a few feet short of 800 miles wide. It’s unfortunate because this place needs protecting. There are many threats to this area of the world and our mission north was sparked by worries over a powerful mining interest’s plans to develop a road 220 miles through the southern reaches of the range. 220 miles cutting through tundra, wetlands, rivers, mountains, caribou migration paths, and even Gates of the Arctic Park and Preserve.
Through long distance hiking I have seen most of our country’s wilderness areas and I can tell you that the Brooks Range is one of the very few true piece of wilderness that we have left.
I was lucky enough to bushwhack and packraft 1,000 miles across it a couple of years ago from the Canadian border to the Chukchi Sea. Even after 10,000 miles of long distance hiking across our country, this place shattered my concept of what wilderness is. Alaska’s Arctic is one of the last wild places, not just in our country but on earth, with such an intact ecosystem. It is one of the last places where you can walk for weeks on end without seeing a road, a fence, a trail, trash or even a human footprint. It would be a tragedy to see industrial development take anymore of it than we have already let go.
And what can we do? We will start by telling about it.
Check out our website: pavingtundra.com and follow our Facebook page if you’d like to learn more about our project. More entries and journals to come soon.