Thursday, August 2, 2012

Brooks Range Meta-blogging

The Brooks Range remains my favorite wilderness in the world, that after looking for what I want: big wilderness, politically stable, wild animal trails, mountains, rivers, forests, clean water, good light, long days, glaciers, hot springs, tundra, few people, no roads, good walking if you know where to look, enough wood for fires but not so much that brush is bad, etc. Recently three Brooks Range events have come onto my radar in between moving between our old house and new.

 1) Pat and Caroline, who started in Bellingham, Washington in sleek row-craft that Pat made (!), reached Kaktovik after walking the coast from the McKenzie and were headed south and into the Brooks Range. Their goal is Kotzebue. Check out their blog.

The idea of traveling as a couple for six months to a year across wilderness and under your own power (Ok with gravity assist) is super appealing to me. Unfortunately, I can't talk Peggy into a six+ month walk/boat trip so I must live vicariously through Pat and Caroline and others.

Go forth, young couples, and explore while you can!

 2) Recently got an email from a young, 27 year old Australian, John Cantor, who crossed the Brooks Range from Canada to Kotzebue Sound in -- wait for it -- 31 days! I think that includes about a week's worth of rest days.

He left Joe Creek in early June and developed some achilles problems that, remarkably, led to an acceleartion of his pace. He passed through Anaktukuk and hit the Noatak below Gull Pass and paddled that in less than a week. It's 500 miles long, just that stretch! Wow.

He wrote me recently. "Hi Roman, I have followed many of your trips with great enthusiasm and reading some of your stuff helped with my planning for my trip. I just returned to Australia after successfully traversing the Brooks Range solo. It was my fourth attempt and it took me thirty-one-and-a-half days. I started about 7 miles west of the Yukon border on Joe Creek. I had food caches on the Sheenjek, Marsh Fork of the Canning River, Wind River, Chandalar Landing Strip, Anaktuvuk Pass and 12 Mile Creek on the Noatak. I had a rest day at the Wind River cache, was stuck at the Chandalar Landing Strip waiting for food for two-and-a-half days and had three rest days in Anaktuvuk Pass cause I had torn my left quadricep. Floating the Noatak took just under seven days finishing at the Kotzebue sound. If you were interested I have a facebook page - "John Cantor's Brooks Range Traverse 2012" and there are some photos up and I'll be posting a lot more in the coming days." Wow.

So if I were 20 years younger, after doing a nine month long traverse around the Brooks Range with Peggy, I'd want to try a speed traverse of the Brooks Range.

 3) Speaking of adventures with our wives and solo traverses of the Brooks Range, Kaylene Johnson's biography of Dick Griffith is out and it is GREAT.

Spend $25 and read about a lifetime of un-sung adventures, many after age 55. It covers his early years in the Grand and Copper Canyons; his solo, living-off-the-land walk from Kaktovik to Anaktuvuk in 1959; his middle age in the Chugach; and his post 55 year old days doing the Wilderness Classic and skiing from Unalakleet to Hudson Bay in his 60s and 70s. It is well illustrated with Dick's photos too. I feared it would lack his witty, aw shucks voice, as any who have read his journals have enjoyed. But it's there in his quotes.

Again, a great book and well worth the price. Only complaint is it wasn't in hard back.


  1. We all have our dream places... The Brooks Range is OK, but I'm always watching everyone's trips on the Lost Coast. :)

    1. Thanks for the reminder of how provincial I am.

  2. Thanks so much for that Roman. You're too kind. You said the Noatak stretch I did is 500 miles. I had been told it was 400 miles? To be honest I never really looked at the distances on the map, I just assumed it was 400 and went with that.
    John Cantor

  3. Took your suggestion and just finished reading the biography of Dick Griffth. Great book and an inspiration to anyone who thinks they are getting too old to wander around in the mountains. Your book is next Roman.



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