Ron Yarnell started guiding in the Brooks Range before Gates of the Arctic National Park was created, before the Dalton Highway (Haul Road) was built, and long before anyone outside of Alaska’s arctic-slope had even heard of places like the Kongakut. We are privileged to have Ron as one of our lead guides and his 40 plus years of guiding experience are a huge asset to Arctic Wild.
Though I have been guiding in northern Alaska for 15 years now and have endeavored to travel the Brooks Range widely, there are still huge swaths of land I have never hiked, boated or even flown over. Fortunately whenever I have a question for a new trip, Ron is available to fill in the blank spot on the map for me with vivid anecdotes from his vast experience. Whether his story is about camping near what is now the Prudhoe Bay oil field, or how the Nigu River once rose 6 feet overnight forcing them to relocate camp, Ron’s stories are rich with love for and knowledge of arctic Alaska.
Ron’s tenure as a guide is long enough and his impact on his guests deep enough that we are now seeing “second generation” clients signing up with Ron. Several people who were under ten when they first went on a trip with Ron are now returning as adults to enjoy another wilderness trip with Ron as their guide.
Ron recently told me he didn’t want to guide quite so much anymore and I feared he was slowing down or not feeling so young. Not a chance! He is simply planning more personal trips in the Brooks Range and wants to leave time for exploring the wilderness on his own. I expect Ron’s enthusiasm for wilderness will keep him hiking, boating, and skiing in the Arctic for decades to come.
If you are eager to travel with Ron this summer he will be guiding our National Parks Explorer trip July 27 – 31 and our Wind River Rafting trip September 1 – 9. With Ron there are always plenty of great stories around the fire.
By Michael Wald