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High Tech I stood on a cut bank bright with autumn, the hoarse shouts of ravens echoing in the silence. Across the Kobuk’s clear, tannin-tinged flow rose a prominent, birch-spangled knoll; and beyond stretched an expanse of country, rising toward the looming, cloud-brushed pyramids of the Jade Mountains. This place, Onion Portage, known to the Inupiat as Paatitaaq (for the wild, onion-like chives that grow here), is marked by a great looping bend several miles long where the Kobuk reverses direction and almost circles back on itself before resuming its meandering westward flow. I lingered here as people have since time forgotten—not just centuries, but millennia according to the work of archeologist Louis Giddings. Roaming alone through the upper Kobuk in the early 1940s, Giddings, a researcher from Brown University, found his way to Onion Portage as so many had before him, following the river, drawn by the shape of…

Keep frostbite at bay There’s a saying: there’s no such thing as bad weather if you have the right gear. Because I run trips through the winter months to some of the most inhospitable places on Earth and have damaged a few piggy toes with frostbite, I’ve learned the hard way what it takes to stay safe and (almost) toasty in the frigid north. I photograph polar bears, auroras, and the Iditarod—all of which can be found above the Arctic Circle from October through March—when smart folks opt for the beaches of Hawaii and Mexico. But truly, those people are unnecessarily missing out—big time. I blame my frostbite on stupidity, of course, but also on the adrenaline and awe that numb my common sense. Despite jackhammer shivering and the icepick piercing stings of 30 below temperatures, I refuse to exchange what just might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a cup…

Reluctant Alaskan hero by Ray Cavanaugh Wrangel Island was never a place people would visit unless they had a really good reason. Technically part of Russia, it’s some 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle and almost as many miles away from the Alaskan coast. It tended to attract young men seeking adventure, danger, and perhaps some personal glory. For the first two, the island was a safe bet. The glory part, however, proved rather more elusive, often fatally so. This hostile piece of territory, with far more polar bears than people, had managed to become a source of international controversy, with Russians, Americans, and Canadians at different points making claims for their homeland. All this was far outside the thoughts of Ada Blackjack, until a set of life circumstances placed her directly on Wrangel’s icy surface and forever linked her name to its formidable legacy. An Alaskan Inupiat, Ada…

Borealis Basecamp launches new offerings Three nights deep in the backcountry of the million-acre White Mountains National Recreation Area outside Fairbanks is a good example of a hard adventure. A soft adventure, says Adriel Butler, could be one hour riding a snowmachine through a powder field. Butler is the owner of Borealis Basecamp, which he aims to make the go-to resort in interior Alaska for those types of soft adventures. Borealis Basecamp opened in 2017 on a 100-acre parcel of forest 25 miles north of Fairbanks. It was open only during winter months and primarily a destination for aurora viewing. The team used time during the early months of the pandemic to plan new accommodations and adventures that launched in 2022. The basecamp is now open through the summer months and offers excursions like six-hour UTV rides and guided driving trips north of the Arctic Circle. In November, the resort…