Here’s an image from our campsite on the Arctic Ocean, at the end of the Canning River float trip. This trip is such a great multi-day raft trip and we can’t wait to get back on it in 2010. What makes this trip so special is that we go from the Brooks Mountain Range, starting almost on the Continental Divide, and run all the way out of the mountains, across the coastal plain to the coast, ending at the Arctic Ocean. It’s a potpourri of terrain and ecosystems, and really gives a sense of how enormous the place is. We probably cover close to 150 miles or so.
The bird life on the trip is quite incredible, waterfowl such as tundra swans and longtail ducks, loons, eiders and more. Golden eagles and Rough-legged hawks are commonly spotted, and snowy owls as well, from time to time. It’s definitely a bird lover’s treat.
One of the things that is indescribable about the refuge is the sense of vastness the place imparts. I try to get out off the river a good bit and hike up on to some of the ridges and peaks in the Brooks Mountains and the view can really open up once you gain some altitude. The mountains appear almost to go on forever; we then get back on the river and, with a bit of paddling, eventually drift out of the mountains on to the coastal plain. Just when we started thinking the mountain range was expansive, the coastal plain gives us another view entirely – it’s almost endless, and we drift, float and paddle on, towards the coast.
Reaching the Arctic Ocean is a fantastic feeling; just as we really start to wonder if it’s ever going to appear, we sense it before we see, hear or smell it. Then the scent of salt water hits, the sound of the ocean, and the sight of great hulking lurking walls of ice on the horizon say ‘here it is’.
I like to make the trip a little longer than most, because that allows us the flexibility to explore along the way, and it’s always great to have some time to spare at the end of the trip for skulking along the coast, looking for arctic foxes, King eiders and caribou.
It’s pretty sweet having a tentsite by the ocean, knowing that across the water there is the North Pole. Just a quick dip away. 🙂