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In July, Don Berens , Allan Sowinski and I made a trip to Alaska to visit three of its spectacular national parks. Our first stop was Wrangell – St Elias, an eight our drive from Anchorage. At 13.2 million acres, it’s the nation’s largest national park and contains the largest wilderness area in the National Wilderness Preservation System. It contains Mt. St. Elias, which at 18,008 feet, is the second highest peak in the United States and nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States. It also has Mt. Wrangell, at 14,163 feet, is one of the largest active volcanoes in North America. Our adventures involved hiking the Erie and Bonanza Mine trails along with visit the abandoned mining town of Kennecott. The next two parks we visited, Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic were north of the Arctic Circle and required bush plane access. Our starting point was the native village of Kotzebue located 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle and only reachable from Anchorage by commercial flight. Gates of the Arctic was created to preserve and protect 8.4 million acres of the diverse arctic ecosystems of Alaska's central Brooks Range. It is acknowledged as the premier Wilderness park in the national park system and serves as the headwaters for six Wild Rivers. The park name comes from wilderness advocate Robert Marshall, (a NYer who along with brother George and Herbert Clark, were the first ADK 46ers) who traveled the North Fork Koyukuk country from 1929 to 1939. Marshall called the two peaks, Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain, which flanked the North Fork Koyukuk as the gates from Alaska's central Brooks Range into the far north Arctic, On our visit here, we camped on a gravel bar along the Ambler River. Our first day involved hiking up a box canyon where we explored a snow field, topping the day off with a climb to an over look for a panoreamic view of the Ambler River valley and our campsite. The next day we hiked along the Ambler Riiver, crossing several tributaries along the way. The Ambler River running clear and COLD only perked my paddling imagination. With a flow of about 7-8 mph, I could only imagine what it would be like to sit back in my Merlin II and just steer. Kobuk Valley , at 1.7 million acres protects the central section of the Kobuk River and the 25 mile Great Kobuk Sand Dune, where we landed and camped. Native peoples have used this area for at least 12,000 years. Their history is recorded at the Onion Portage archaeological site. We sent two days , hiking on the sand dune, occasionally dropping down into the river valley below to explore the taiga forest. In one instance, we observed a beaver dam. Our guide told us that there’s a northern migration north due to the warming of the arctic. Prior to statehood, virtually all the land within the territory was federally owned. Upon entering the [...]
Older conservation news:
Those of you who bike on the section of the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail north of the Corning Preserve can not help but notice the poor condition of the bike [...]