In the far western Brooks Range near the Chukchi Coast is a colorful and remote wilderness deep in the Baird Mountains. Aqua colored creeks carve limestone canyons through the rocky ridges. The country is stunning with fingers of trees in the creeks and thick tundra carpets merging with pastel talus on the mountains. Golden Eagles soar in the brilliant sky searching the mountains for prey. Wolves wander the ridge tops hoping to find caribou migrating north. This trip puts you right in the middle of it all.
Here in the Western Arctic there is ample solitude and room to roam. The only trails in the area are those made by passing caribou. There are no campgrounds, no other hikers, and probably not even any human footprints in this part of the mountains. We trade the noise of civilization for 24 hour daylight, long vistas, quiet canyons, and the possibility of wildlife around every corner.
We’ll fly into the Bairds one at a time, aiming to land on the Omar River using the impressive capabilities of a Super-cub airplane. Once on the ground and reunited we’ll establish camp in an area free of snow (we hope) and with long vistas to improve chances of seeing wildlife. Once camp is established days and nights merge into a timeless pattern of walking, scanning for wildlife, sleeping, eating, walking, and marveling at the ever changing beauty of the landscape.
May is late Spring in the Bairds and each day will bring change. Some days the snow will melt right before our eyes while the 24 hour sunshine bakes the land. On others the snow may stick to the windward side of everything while winter stages a comeback. Birds will be arriving from the world over and the snow-free ground greens with amazing speed. May is a time of transition and a return of life in the north.
Last updated: November 25, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting in Kotzebue this evening.
Rendezvous at the hangar in the morning and then one at a time we’ll fly up the Kobuk and then into the rugged Baird Mountains. Our competent pilot will aim for your pre-determined and prefered landing area, but conditions on the ground and aviation safety will dictate the exact location of the camp. Some time will be spent shuttling gear on our backs from the landing area to a suitable campsite, But once camp is pitched, you’ll have the evening to settle into your surroundings, hike up a ridge or just gape at the awe-inspiring scenery.
The joys of wilderness life are many. We have full days and long nights to enjoy the land, the change of seasons and with luck the wildlife moving through. Your guide is on hand to offer insight into natural history and wilderness safety. We can opt to hike all day and/ or night, or we can spend time in camp. The times is your to enjoy as you see fit.
The hum of the plane may be the first we’ve heard in days. When the pilot arrives to carry the guide, Gary, and Cinda away it can bring in a food resupply for Jake. The Arctic Wild trip is at an end but Jake will remain in the wilderness on his own and is scheduled to fly back to Kotzebue with Arctic Backcountry Flying on June 11th.
Michael listened to our descriptions of what we wanted in a trip and investigated the possibility of making that sort of trip happen. Unlike some other guide services, he was attuned to what we were saying and did not outright say he could not accommodate us because Arctic Wild only provided trips like X, Y, or Z. In my opinion, the major difference between Arctic Wild and the 4 other guide services I talked to was that Michael tried to design a trip meeting our trip objectives and wishes.
Transportation to the Bairds from Kotzebue on May 20 (1 load per person with the Super Cub), Return transport from the camp in the Bairds to Kotzebue for the guide plus one Gary on May 25.
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild during the guided trip and is included
Personal clothing and gear, per our equipment list
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide
Transportation from Bairds to Kotzebue for Jake and his gear at the end of his solo trip
Camp gear, food, or safety equipment for Jake’s personal trip May 25 onward
Weather this time of year is often clear and beautiful. Precipitation when it comes is generally light, and it’s fairly easy to keep comfortably dry. Because it’s the arctic, however, snow is always possible and you can expect temperatures to range from the 20s to the 70s. There will likely be snow on the ground and it could be deep in many places. Gaiters, extra socks and waterproof footwear are essential. Because the trip is in early spring, mosquitoes should be nearly absent but a bottle of DEET is always prudent.