Alaska - a land of wolves, bears and cute arctic foxes; rugged wilderness and breathtaking scenery. A land where one mistake can make the difference between life or death and a land that will take hold of your heart and not let go.
Two weeks ago Steve and I boarded a plane for a part of the world where I never dreamed I'd actually set foot. Three flights and 19 hours' travel time later, we arrived in Kotzebue - 53km (33mi) north of the Arctic Circle (if you're really interested, the coordinates are 66°53′50″N 162°35′8″W. Trust me - it's waaaay up there). But this wasn't an ordinary tourist excursion to the top of the world; we were there to hunt caribou and rough it - as far as you can call it that with a gas stove in camp.
Kotzebue gave us a welcome that was a far cry from the Hotlanta summer we'd just left: cold, windy and a misty drizzle. Arriving at 9:40am local time, we had a few hours to kill while we waited for the weather to clear for the flight out to the camp run by Alaska Kobuk Outfitters.
One thing we noticed while exploring Kotzebue is that the satellite dishes don't point up; they point to the horizon. Yet another clue that you're in a completely different part of the world.
At around 3pm local time we finally received word that the cloud layer had lifted sufficiently at camp for us to land out there - and we were off again; even further north and inland. I've piloted a Cessna once, a long time ago (and have one hour clocked in a pilot's logbook to prove it) but that was on a sunny, windless day and this was not. I'll freely admit I'm not the happiest flyer, but once I got the courage up to ignore the bumps and look out the window, I was in for a treat.
Our pilot was ever on the lookout for wildlife and thanks to him we saw a group of musk oxen and a rather large-ish moose, which glared up at the plane with a "what?!" attitude. After a sweet landing on the riverbed (much smoother than the wind-blown thriller landing into Kotzebue), the pilot took off back to Kotz, leaving me to catch this shot of the plane heading for the cloudy sky.
This truly was an adventure to remember - and one that will always be among the best I've ever had the privilege of experiencing.
Next up: the Alaska Kobuk Outfitters Camp and Moose Bottoms.