On a remote arctic wilderness river with bone-numbingly cold whitewater, in a near constant hypothermic environment, populated with grizzlies…nothing bad happened. How do you make that into an interesting story, when the ingredients for most adventure tales, popularized in books and movies, involve conflict and almost certain death? Fortunately, a good adventure story doesn’t have to involve misery, suffering, harrowing escapes from the jaws of predators, getting lost, or physiological melt downs from participants. In fact, none of these things happen on my many remote river trips, which is just the way I like it.
Sure, there are physical and mental challenges, as well as unforeseen problems that need to be faced and dealt with. On any wilderness trip having the proper equipment, skills, and knowledge will avert most potential mishaps. For example: good judgement is the most important thing you can bring with you—along with compatible people. I learned a long time ago on a 29-day winter Grand Canyon trip that the company you keep is critical to the success of a challenging trip. If group dynamics fall apart, so does the trip.
But our trip on the Marsh Fork of the Canning River was a different sort of adventure: a spiritual and emotionally rewarding journey with lasting memories that created stronger bonds with friends and a deeper connection to wilderness, illustrating the importance of its preservation.
Michael DeYoung is a travel and adventure photographer with 31 years of experience photographing Alaska for commercial and editorial clients. He leads photo tours and workshops for Arizona Highways Photoscapes and private adventure photo tours on his own with Active Photo Tours. A large display of his images can be found at the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali. Learn more at activephototours.com and michaeldeyoung.com.