Our 6 person entourage, plus 2 guides, flew from Fairbanks to the north slope of the Brooks Range and the NE sector of the ANWR, landing on a gravel bar in the Kongakut river with our bush pilot from Coyote Air. Key memories will be the vastness and the beauty of the landscape from the air and during our 50+ miles rafting down the river to 6 different camp sites and temperature shifts of 30 degrees.
Traversing the tundra and the spongy tussocks proved to be challenging, but the beauty of the lichen and wild flowers (white Cotton Grass, dark pink Alaskan Phlox, pale blue Little Weasel Snout, pale pink Boykinias and the dark blue Arctic Lupine), the freshness of the air, the sunshine and the 24/7 daylight in early July mitigated any of the hardships during our daily 6 hour treks from the various encampments with elevation rises up to 2,000 feet.
We missed seeing any musk ox or caribou, but had sightings of grizzlies, Dall sheep, golden eagles, wolves (prowling the tundra across the river at 11 p.m.) and Arctic terns.
The pristine river water was our drinking source along with auf ice crystal shards shoved into our water bottles. It was also the source of Arctic Char added to our meals, caught by one of our group and prepared by our guides.
Magic was hiking at midnight with the sun behind the ensuing fog rolling in that would enshroud our camp at breakfast, as well as not seeing any other people the entire time. The mosquitoes were our nearest "companions"!