The word Arctic, for me, is a magical word. As someone who lives in an Arctic state, I have spent relatively little time above latitude 66º. What time I have spent in the far north has further emboldened my romance. The land of no summer sunsets, bowhead whales, walrus’, shorebird colonies that darken the skies and ancient cultures surviving and thriving in the lands of their ancestors easily distract my mind. A quixotic vision compels me north this summer, but with a healthy dose of realistic expectation, and even more caution.
This summer, myself along with Kim McNett and Daniel Countiss will fly to the northwestern Alaskan community of Point Hope and begin a long, fat-bike and packraft trip. Our aim is to traverse more than 800 miles of Arctic terrain to Kaktovik in the northeastern region of the state. We will pass through the villages of Point Lay, Wainwright, Utqiagvik (Barrow) then continue east to Deadhorse; and, if everything goes incredibly well, we’ll continue on to Kaktovik. For the first ten-days, we will be joined by our friend Alayne Tetor.
For months, we have poured over satellite data, photosets, and maps; and have reached out to any and everyone we know that has experience or who lives in the region. We have repackaged and stuffed seven-weeks worth of food into flat-rate priority mail boxes, to be sent to village post offices when needed, and assembled all the odds and ends one needs to survive while traveling unsupported in the wilderness. We’ve overhauled all the little parts and pieces of our bikes and stripped them down to single speed and single intention machines. Our bags are packed.
Before any big trip, but particularly before a previously unattempted big trip, I hear the questions from friends and family: how long will it take, how many miles do you expect to travel each day, etc. My response is, we have seven weeks worth of food. We can make assumptions and guesses based off the information we have, but until we are actually there we’ll have no real or clear idea about our efficiency on this road-less and trail-less route. This uncertainty gives me butterflies. The giants of our imagination may turn out to be benign windmills or we may come home with our tails between our legs. Regardless, we are going…to find out.
Beyond the straightforward adventure, we will also be attempting to contribute to the scientific community by documenting and measuring coastal erosion. Similar to geocaching, we will be attempting to locate the dozens of “shore stations,” which have been created by Shore Zone, with our GPS. Once we locate them, we will re-measure, photo-re-occupy, make field notes, and nature drawings. Some of the coastline we propose to pass through is losing more than 20 feet a year to erosion from the warming seas – a symptom of climate change.
Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson once said, “There are two kinds of Arctic problems, the imaginary and the real. Of the two, the imaginary are the most real.” From where we are standing, all Arctic problems are imaginary and therefore very real.
With any luck, we’ll be able to send updates from the villages we pass through. We will be carrying our InReach tracking device, which will send daily “pings” from our current location. To follow our progress click here: https://share.delorme.com/BjornandKim
We will also send occasional, short updates from our InReach, which will be received by Ground Truth Trekking’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groundtruthtrekking/
An enormous thank you is due to the brands and organizations that have helped us realize this expedition: Ground Truth Trekking, Cook Inletkeeper, Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, Salsa Cycles, Alpacka Rafts, Mountain Laurel Designs, and the Time Lords Cycling Group.