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Backpacker Magazine – February 1999

ANWR: Postcards From The Edge

Journey to Alaska's far northern edge, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where the midnight sun shines like candlelight on the mountains.

by: Jeff Rennicke

Expedition Planner: Arctic

Trip planning and guides: For less experienced hikers, a list of guide services is available from the refuge manager (see "Contact," below). Some outfitters, like Arctic Treks, (907) 455-6502, offer consultation services for a fee and will help you plan a trip based on skill level, budget, and time.

Maps: Because the area is so huge, no one map provides the scale needed to navigate. Ask the refuge manager for more information.

Access: Commercial airlines service Arctic Village, Kaktovik, Fort Yukon, and Dead Horse, which are jumping off points for most ANWR trips. Bush planes take you the rest of the way. Contact the refuge manager (see "Contact," below) for a list of bush plane operators. I flew out of Arctic Village with Yukon Air, 2532 Roland Rd., Fairbanks, AK 99709; (907) 479-3792 or (907) 662-2445.

Season: Winter comes early and stays late. Expect ice in passes and streams well into June and snowfall starting in September. There's relatively little precipitation, and most of it falls as summer rain. Expect cold, wet, windy conditions any time of year. Since the sun doesn't set between mid-May and early August, there's plenty of daylight to wait out bad weather.

Walk softly: Because of the short growing season, disturbing plants and animals can tip the balance against survival. Keep your distance so you don't harass wildlife. The short summer also means things decompose slowly, so carry out all trash. Rather than walking single file when hiking, spread out to lessen the impact on vegetation.

Grizzlies: It's legal to carry firearms in the refuge. Pepper spray can also be brought in, but some bush pilots won't allow it in the plane or they require you to keep it in an air-tight container while in flight.

Conservation: With its oil and gas potential, ANWR is one of the most threatened wild places in the United States. To learn more, contact: Alaska Wilderness League, 320 Fourth St. NE, Washington, DC 20002; (202) 544-5205;

Contact: Refuge manager, Box 20, 101 12th Ave., Fairbanks, AK 99701; (907) 456-0250;

-J. Rennicke

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