Birding our way along the Aichilik River. Photo Carole Comeau.
The Brooks Range arcs across northern Alaska from the Bering Sea to the Canadian border. The eastern end of the range forms the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a spectacular wilderness area of towering, raw mountains, drained by busy rivers that weave north through the softening foothills and across the rolling coastal plain to the Arctic Ocean.
Our destination for this trip is a quiet spot on the Aichilik River in the northern foothills. June in the Refuge is a busy time for birds and wildlife: the Porcupine caribou herd attracts an array of predators such as grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines and golden eagles; a variety of birds sing through the 24 hours of daylight on their breeding territories; the occasional musk ox grazes on the coastal plain, and a multitude of butterflies, insects and spiders flourish in the brief summer. As the mercury climbs and the daylight increases, snow and ice rapidly melt away and wildflowers burst from a cold, dark dormancy into lively color. An intricate chain of life maintains an exquisite balance in this land of extremes.
Spending six days in one location allows us to dig in and thoroughly explore our surroundings. We’ll take hikes each day, always returning to camp each night. In some years there is so much happening in and near camp that it’s difficult to make it very far before being distracted–but that’s why we’re here!
Conditions on the Aichilik River may necessitate changing locations for this trip at the last minute. We have several excellent alternative locations to chose from should this happen, but we might not know until the day before the trip that this will be the case. This trip is remote and can be moderately strenuous; outside help could be days away. Participants need to be in good health, pack a positive attitude, and be capable of handling a variety of conditions.
We’ll hold a pretrip meeting in Fairbanks in the afternoon the day before the trip. We’re scheduled to return to Fairbanks around 6 pm on Day 6, but due to the unknowns of wilderness travel and weather, it’s not uncommon to be delayed getting back to Fairbanks; plan some flexibility into your return ticket. The price of the trip includes all flights from Fairbanks to the Arctic Refuge and back, all meals during the trip, all permits and a WBA guide. You are responsible for your Fairbanks logistics and expenses (lodging, meals, etc.) and your personal gear.