For the past 9 years I have had the good fortune to have a wonderful dog with me on many adventures. Hank died on Christmas Day, and though I’ve never seen an obituary for a dog, He deserves one.
We got Hank as a puppy, from the shelter in Fairbanks and within a couple of weeks he was on his first winter camping trip to the remote Hootlanana Hot Springs north of Fairbanks. His career as an adventuring dog was off to a good start. During his first summer we got to backpack in the Philip Smith Mountains and then raft the Canning River to the Arctic Ocean. From there it was off to Barter Island where he emptied a can of pepper-spray into a hotel carpet; a story which eventually made it into the New York Times. Since then, he has traveled widely in Alaska mostly on personal trips but also on the occasional guided trip, becoming so comfortable with small planes that we would just load-up and wait for the ride to begin. When not roaming the Brooks Range (usually in heel) he has been my constant companion on countless more mundane adventures. Though bred to be a herding dog, he found his true calling as a greeter, wagging his whole body and talking up a storm to anyone arriving at our home or the Arctic Wild warehouse. In addition to brightening our days he also thwarted a moose who was determined to stomp me, alerted us to bears approaching camp, bravely chased an entire pack of wolves from our camp and dutifully watched over our young boys even when they mauled him. I could write about Hank for hours, but suffice it to say that we couldn’t ask for a better dog. We will miss him for many, many years.
In July 2011, a fun-loving group of friends hired Arctic Wild to guide them on a wild and far-flung adventure in the eastern Aleutians. We spent a week camping on a remote beach; from our base camp we explored the steep and lush mountains, walked the beaches, fished the creek and, of course, soaked in the hot springs. You can have your own Aleutian Hot Springs Adventure in July 2012.
One of the remarkable things about camping in the arctic is the long evening light with rich colors and long shadows. Where else can you watch the sunset for 3 hours, only to watch it begin rising again immediately?
Early August is a time between the explosion of spring flowers, and the yellows and reds of autumn. At this time of year, with a subtle color palette, the long evening light makes the the tundra shine.
The fog hangs thick along the arctic coast. The flat light and the flatter landscape make it difficult to identify objects. You can find yourself wondering….Is that a giant driftwood stump a mile away or an eider duck at 200 yards? It is disconcerting when you can’t trust your eyes.
Whenever I find bear tracks on the arctic coast, I try to tell myself that they are from a Grizzly Bear. I’ve spent more time around them and they produce less anxiety. I know they are usually from Polar Bears but when I do get to see them, it is always a privilege.
Dan Ritzman took this photo near the village of Kaktovik in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.