One Man's Paradise

Arctic Memories

“We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. “

Herman Melville

That’s a passage from Moby Dick.

Now that I am back from the Arctic, I had a couple of weeks time to contemplate about my summer up North.

Compared to other travel destinations few people travel to the far North, to experience foul weather, thirsty mosquitoes and a lack of most conveniences. Nevertheless, there are some, that enjoy this harsh environment. I was wondering if the inconveniences make you appreciate the little things that you have up there more.

Maybe a shelter in the woods feels more special than your standard home in a gated community. Or the blueberries that you picked yourself, while watching for bears and battling the always present mosquitoes taste better than the exotic fruits you can buy in the supermarket? Or the unexpected kindness that was offered to you feels better than the best online deal you ever got?

For me it was the solitude that came with the vast landscape, the absence of humans and their doings and the sense of self -reliance in the back country that made an impression on me.

I can appreciate the conveniences of civilized life, but in the spirit of Herman Melville, there comes the day, when I need a little bit of roughing it, just for good measure.

Brooks Range, Alaska

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Koviashuvik

“Where is home for you?”

How do you answer that question? Is it the place you grew up in? Maybe you call home the place where you currently reside. Either way, in most cases that place comes with a street address and a zip code. A valid mailing address.

Without that, you are almost … nothing.


“Living in the present moment with quiet joy and happiness”


I am looking forward to reading Sam Wright’s book “Koviashuvik – Making a home in the Brooks Range”. Sam was a biologist, priest, and teacher who lived with his wife decades north of the Arctic Circle in a one-room log cabin, reflecting on life, mankind, and wilderness. He called his home Koviashuvik, which means a time and place of joy and happiness. According to Inuit tradition one must live in harmony with nature to experience koviashuvik,

I have not found a street address for Sam’s home, but living in a place with such a beautiful name, I imagine you don’t care that you can’t have a residential phone line, a cable subscription, or even utilities…

Maybe it was just the lack of modern day amenities (and obligations) and the presence of a relatively undisturbed wilderness that made his home a happy place…

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One Man's Paradise

Sukakpak Mountain

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What was once an ancient seabed is now visible as one of the most recognizable mountains of the Brooks Range. Just 4,459 ft but close to the Dalton Hwy., so it can be climbed in a day. The limestone deposit was subjected to intense heat and pressure, which caused it to metamorphose into marble. Slowly crumbling away. Apparently ice forms in the winter, attracting hardy ice climbers. The East slopes just beg for some back country skiing.

Like a hunter and gatherer I collected this image on a rare calm day with interesting clouds swirling around the mountain. On June 13 I stood alone on top of the mountain. IT Is hard to express the awe, peace, and humility I felt.

“Over the years I have discovered that each minute spent in the Arctic – whether in a tent in foul weather, on top of a breath-taking mountain, or in the midst of ten thousand caribou – carries the fullness of a rare wilderness experience.”

Debbie Miller

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One Man's Paradise

Brooks Range: Horizons

“I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Summer 2018 seems to go into the record books as a relatively cool and wet one, quite in contrast to the rest of the nation. Nevertheless, there were clear, warm, breezy, and calm days sprinkled into the mix. The constantly changing weather patterns made for great photo opportunities, I think. Rainy days were used for sorting through my images, making pastry, doing laundry, roughly in that order.

blog-22 On my blueberry and mushroom expeditions, I ended frequently on ridge tops, which offered the best views of the immensity of the Brooks Range, short of being in a bush plane. Haven’t seen a single paraglider, although these hills are just calling for it. Gentle slopes in all directions, no powerlines, no fences… Once in a while a golden eagle or a pair of ravens are cruising along the ridge lines, showing me where the upwinds are. The same hills should make for amazing backcountry skiing, sans the cold… Maybe I will come back in March or April, when the winter temperatures may be bearable, and come to think of it, when there is also sufficient daylight for this activity. At night, I could watch the northern lights.

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Endicott Mountains, Brooks Range, Alaska

The oldtimers say September brings cooler, clear days. We shall see. The North Slope has already been blanketed several times with a couple inches of snow.

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One Man's Paradise

Life in the Arctic

“What shocked me the most about the polar regions was neither the cold nor the remoteness, but a bewildering confrontation with my own lack of understanding.”

Galen Rowell

When Galen Rowell visited the Brooks Range for the first time, he was not prepared for the loss of daily rhythms, such as sunrise and sunset. He describes the time as “flowing without punctuation “and “days merging into undark nights”.

Especially after a long winter this period of continuous daylight becomes a challenge to all visitors of the polar regions. Life seems abundant, with constant change. No time to sleep, no time to rest.

Well, it’s the end of August. The midnight sun has come and gone. For a few hours the sky turns dark at night. For the first time in several months I have seen stars. Last night the Northern Lights were dancing above the mountains. The tundra colors have changed from lush green to red, orange, yellow, and brown in some places. Quite a display.

About 2 more weeks for me in the Arctic. I will savor every day, rain or shine.

 

 

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One Man's Paradise

The Arctic

“A land of enormous geometry etched by the cutting edge of light. Implacable, raw, elemental, beautiful and threatened.”

T. H. Watkins

A picture-perfect day at the North Slope. 140 miles of undulating hills covered with wet tundra until the Arctic Ocean. This is the place that unimaginable herds of caribou crossed in the spring to give birth to their young, to escape from the mosquitoes and to find summer feeding grounds. Come fall the migration pattern reverses.

Musk ox and arctic foxes roam this place that looks so innocent on a warm and sunny day. It will turn into a frigid, wind-blown freezer that only a few species can tolerate and even thrive in.

This place needs to be experienced with all senses. A photograph does not do it justice. It will serve me as a reminder of  a summer north of the Arctic Circle.

 

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