I spent 11 days in July floating the Marsh fork of the Canning river, which is one of the many rivers flowing north out of the Brooks Range and into the Beaufort Sea. The Canning river marks the western boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is substantial in size at 19 million acres. It seems that all ventures in Alaska’s arctic tap into the extremes that even mid summer can offer. One moment you are wearing every piece of clothing you brought, and the next moment you are baking in hot sun along a tundra hillside. Plenty of rain fell during the trip, and in a heartbreaking way, pumped the normally beautifully aqua blue river to bank busting brown. When you see water flowing through dwarf fireweed, then you know it is high water! I did most of the trip in a little pack raft, what amazingly fun little water wizards.
For a change of pace, when flying in we had our gear dropped off down river, and our pilot gave us GPS coordinates to find the goods. It was a mild 14 mile hike in clouds and rain and we arrived to enjoy a clearing evening and pleasant sunset (I take that back, the sun does not set, but it did dip behind a mountain). We spent a few days at this camp spot as a base for day hikes. About 2:00am, while sipping on some Black Box red wine around our campfire, a lemming dashed across the gravel bar in front of us and jumped right into the swiftly moving river. I thought…little guy…you are toast, that current will sweep you downstream in an instant. I was wrong. That amazing little animal paddled itself right across the current with amazing alacrity. I’ve been commercial fishing in big seas and the waves to that little guy must have been the equivalent of 30 footers!
I took an amazingly few photos on the 11 day journey, and barely dented the batteries of my camera. But there were a few nuggets along the way and I’ll share more in upcoming posts. This frame is a single RAW exposure and I used split-graduated ND filters in Lightroom to balance the foreground and sky tonality. I included the original flat, RAW capture to show what a pre and post Lightroom tweak looks like for this scene.