The Arctic

The Brooks Range is the living backbone of Alaska’s great Arctic wilderness. This northernmost extension of the Rocky Mountain chain—stretching 600 miles long by 200 miles wide across the entire Alaskan Arctic—is an untamed expanse so vast and complete you’re forced to redefine your whole notion of wildness—and yourself. The immensity of it boggles the mind—a sweep of your eye from a high ridge can encompass hundreds of miles untouched by human hands. To the north lies the phenomenal openness of the coastal plain, while the Brooks Range itself rises into layer upon layer of rugged mountains, split by enormous glacier-sculpted valleys. On the south slope, extensive forests carpet the land and rivers run free to the horizon.

The vitality, the life energy of the Arctic summer can’t be contained in words. After a long, harsh winter, all life is in high gear for the short, intense burst of summer. The sun never sets, just dips lower on the horizon, creating late evening light of incredible softness. All colors become exquisitely rich and deep, creating scenes of such beauty they seem “other-dimensional.”

The Caribou migration in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in the Brooks Range of Alaska

To those who look carefully, the land is always alive with the signs of the the animals who live here. If the timing is right and luck is with you, you can experience the “lifeblood” of the Arctic—flowing rivers of caribou, following thousand year old migration paths. Or you can be humbled as you ponder the palm-sized birds who fly from the other end of the earth just to nest in this rich land. The year-round residents of this arctic land are equally intriguing, from grizzly bears, wolves, snowy owls, Dall sheep, wolverines and foxes, to the most archetypal arctic animal, the musk ox, who still stand fierce against a threat, their long “skirts” billowing in the wind, unchanged since Pleistocene times.