We're off to the north for another human-powered journey.
Nearly ten years ago, Kim and I tromped around the Seward Peninsula during our first summer together. On that trip we joined our friend Maynard Linder who is well-regarded knife and ulu maker. In the winter, caribou naturally shed their antlers and caribou antler is a prized knife handle material. With Maynard we spent two-weeks far afield combing through the high country in search of the bone-white and mossy-green tundra treasure. After harvesting several hundred pounds of antler, Kim and I spent another two weeks sightseeing around, soaking in remote hot springs, exploring and venturing as far as our fat-bikes would allow. On that trip we fantasized about the innumerable routes that appeared possible with the aid of a packraft. We are returning to attempt one of them.
Fall in northern Alaska can be inviting and beautiful beyond description as the tundra plants transition from green to radiant yellow and brilliant red; birds and animals are on the move in search of the last easy to acquire calories before the hard winter ahead or are beginning their long migrations south. For me, above almost all else, crisp autumn air, filled with the delicious potpourri of earthy aromas, is the season’s most alluring feature.
Fall in Alaska can also be cruel and unforgiving: wet snowstorms can turn the dirt into a sticky paste, gumming up chains and brakes; hard frosts can make mornings difficult when trying to force cold feet into frozen socks; strong winds that spill onto the Bering Sea, and send terrifying water spouts into the sky—often powerful enough to knock over full-grown men—can occur; or persistent rain and the accompanying low ceiling can transform the sky into weeks of merciless grey.
Since that trip, Kim and I have been to the Seward Peninsula several times in winter. We have ridden our fat-bikes on the Iditarod Trail from both the north and south, and crossed the entire peninsula on a rarely visited snow-trail, twice. We are excited to return to this ancient and mysterious land—home, for thousands of years, to the Inupiat Eskimo—once again, to try something adventurous and original.
No other time of year has such power over the human psyche as autumn. We intend to rage against the transitional season, to meet it with open arms and embrace whatever mood we find it in.
We will be using well-designed equipment, perfect for the traverse. We will follow dirt roads; we will paddle our Alpacka packrafts down rivers and over coastal lagoons; Kim and I will ride over tundra, drainages, sea cliffs, and beaches on our sturdy, well-made Salsa Cycles fat-bikes. At the end of each day, we will scour the treeless landscape for dead and dry willow branches or bits of driftwood for the evening fire, and we will sleep in our Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 4 floor-less shelter atop the primeval ground.
Each foray into the wilderness is full of surprises and is an opportunity to experience something fascinating about our natural world. The trick is to be prepared for the worst and available for the best. “We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal,” writes Henry David Thoreau, “and then leap in the dark to our success.” What this trip to the north will proffer up, we can only imagine. With fat-bikes and packrafts, on an untested route, in a landscape as wild as the Seward Peninsula, it’s bound, at the very least, to be stunning and attention grabbing.
We will be carrying our InRerach tracking device. If you'd like to follow our progress hit this link: