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An Arctic Miracle on Hold Seth Kantner and I sat, leaning into our binoculars. The sandy knoll commanded a huge sweep of autumn-bright country—rolling tundra banded with willow and spruce, framed by the ragged, snow-dusted heave of the western Brooks Range. Working near to far, we scanned each crease and hummock, studied clumps of brush and jumbles of rock, searching the blue-tinted distance for shimmers of movement, anything that stood out or reflected light a bit differently. This place was far more than a fine view in a landscape defined by countless others. Half a lifetime had passed since I’d first looked out from this crest, and I’d returned more times than I could count. Seth’s attachment lay deeper still. He’d been born just a few miles to the east and knew this place from childhood. Each of us, together and alone, and in varying company, had spent time here…

Looking for game and enjoying being in the mountains is how most hunters actually spend their time when out there. Here, the author’s brother contemplates caribou country. Photo by Bjorn Dihle. MC, my better half, exhaled like an enraged grizzly and flung an antique rocking chair against our home’s wall. Hell knows no fury like an Alaskan woman who wants to go hunting but can’t get time off from work. “If I can’t go caribou hunting you sure as Peter Piper’s pickled peppers can’t either!” she yelled. MC had been a gentle vegetarian when we met, but on our second date, which took place deep in the wilderness, she was faced with a situation where she had to kill or be killed. There, beneath the aurora dancing across the night sky, as wolves howled in tribute, she tasted the blood of the beast for the first time and there was…

The importance of the Porcupine herd to the Gwich’in people

[by Charlie Swaney and Peter Mather | photos by Peter Mather]


AS I SIT WITH GWICH’IN HUNTER CHARLIE SWANEY UNDER A CLASSIC BLUE CAMPING TARP, A RAIN DRIZZLE SILENTLY DRUMS ALL AROUND US.

There are many places to get a great shot of the highest mountain in North America—and not all of them are in Denali National Park. On a clear day, you can spot the towering snow-capped dome from Anchorage. Talkeetna affords a backside view along a picturesque river. Flightseeing provides exceptional close-ups. But going to the park delivers some choice locations for creative composition.

Eielson’s epic mail flight On February 21, 1924, Carl Ben Eielson flew Alaska’s first official air mail service. The 280-mile flight from Fairbanks to McGrath took just a few hours, compared to 18 days or more by dog sled. Eielson used a de Havilland DH-4 open cockpit biplane to carry the 164 pounds of mail, and he bundled up in caribou-fur socks, moccasins, a reindeer parka, a marten-skin cap, a wolverine-skin hood, and multiple wool layers, as well as goggles. Born in North Dakota in 1897, Eielson flew in the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I. In 1922, he took a teaching job in Fairbanks but soon devoted his time to flying bush planes for miners and their cargo, quickly becoming one of Alaska’s most pioneering bush pilots. He died in 1929 while trying to rescue a ship full of furs that was mired in ice off the…

Oral history on the upper Tanana Dene released The Upper Tanana Dene, People of this Land (University of Alaska Press), offers a portrait of an Alaska Native people both before and during the transformative changes of the 20th century. It centers around oral accounts from Dene elders born in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Additional historical and anthropological information provides context. The upper Tanana region of eastern Alaska is bordered on the south by the Wrangell Mountains and on the north by the rolling Yukon-Tanana uplands. It’s a boreal forest landscape with broad river valleys, expansive wetlands, and abundant fish and wildlife that includes migrating herds of caribou. “It is a landscape lived in and lived with,” writes author and anthropologist William E. Simeone, who has lived there for 50 years. While parts of Alaska felt Russian, missionary, and other influences earlier, the upper Tanana remained largely isolated…