Last updated: October 9, 2017
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4 p.m. at the Arctic Wild headquarters in Fairbanks.
Fly 350 miles north from Fairbanks, across the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle to the Gwich’in Athabaskan village of Arctic Village. In Arctic Village we will meet our pilot for the beautiful flight over the Continental Divide past countless peaks and glaciers into the upper Aichilik River valley. After hiking to a suitable campsite, we will make camp and eat dinner and then take a hike under the midnight sun.
Dwarfed by the Brooks Range’s peaks, we day-hike further into the mountains.
Before launching into the river, your guide will train you in the art of packrafting and river safety. Once you are feeling confident and packs are secured to the deck of the packrafts, you begin your descent towards the ocean. The river is small and rocky and you may need to get out occasionally to nudge your boat between rocks or over shallows. The scenery alone is worth the effort and there will be time to lean back in your raft and watch the tundra go by.
July 23 - 25
As the river exits the mountains, the sky broadens and the river braids into multiple channels. Once you get the knack of following your guide through the deepest water, you will make good time and can scan the banks for bear, wolf, and caribou. Traveling towards the coast the wildlife changes along with the scenery. Waterfowl collect on the gravel bars and arctic fox can be found denning on the sandy banks. To the south, the Brooks Range dominates the skyline.
Approaching the coast the current slows and you enter one of the most wildlife rich portions of the Arctic Refuge. The Aichilik Delta is a birder’s paradise. After negotiating the delta, we paddle across the coastal lagoon to a barrier island in the Arctic Ocean. Most years there is sea ice still attached to the shore and we have an endless evening to explore this austere land of sky and ice.
You are likely to hear the boat before you see it. Once your captain arrives you will load your packs into the boat and take a several hour boat trip along the Arctic Coast. Along the way you are sure to learn about modern Eskimo life and are very likely to see polar bears. Once in the village, you can settle into your local lodging and enjoy a warm shower.
You have the morning to take a tour of Kaktovik and learn a bit more about life on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. Mid-day catch the “mail-plane” back to Fairbanks, (weather dependant) arriving in time for dinner.