Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Flight In

Day 1:  Tuesday, June 11, 2002

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the bush plane’s first flight leaves Arctic Village

This map of northeastern Alaska shows the relationship of Fairbanks, Arctic Village, and the area of our trip

We awoke to an early start:  a 7am meeting time at Wright Air in Fairbanks.  We were to take a charter flight to Arctic Village, a small village with no roads in or out.  From there we would hop a ride on a bush plane which would take us to a makeshift airstrip on the Aichilik River in the heart of ANWR.  The weather was cloudy, rainy, and chilly.  We waited in Arctic Village for a few hours until our bush plane pilot determined that the weather was acceptable enough to make the flight to ANWR.  Our group, with 10 people including the two leaders, then split into two groups of five for the flight.  Five of us, including myself, were left behind to wait for the second flight.  A small warehouse provided some shelter, but our raingear was our real protection.


The flight in was both fascinating and frightening.  The clouds were low over the Brooks Range and the route was somewhat unclear.  The bush pilot changed routes several times to avoid the weather.  We had views of lots of wildlife, including caribou and Dall sheep.  We completed the trip over the coastal plain, where the snow started falling.  We turned south up the Aichilik River to find our landing strip, with tents set up just a few yards from the strip!  Our companions from the first flight had set up nearby also.  The ground was covered with snow, and the bumpy tussocks didn’t make setting up the tents any easier.  But we all got set up and prepared for our hot dinner.  A planned two-mile hike was cancelled due to the long day and the weather.  Darkness was not a factor, due to the 24-hour daylight at this time of year.

the first night’s camp



First day on our ANWR adventure.  Checked out of my Fairbanks hotel early and went to the Wright’s Air terminal.  Had a charter flight to Arctic Village on the 10-seater “Grand Caravan.”  Got to Arctic Village through mostly cloudy skies.  Waited in the rain at the “airport” there.  Bush pilot arrived around 1:30pm, out by 1:50.  I was selected for the second group, so we had to wait for the 1˝ hour each-way trip of the first group.  The clouds are rising and it’s supposedly getting clearer.


Long, rough ride in.  Saw lots of caribou & dall sheep from the plane.  When we finally landed, it was snowing.  Set up our tents and had dinner, abandoning plan to hike 2 miles today.  Snow has stopped and clouds have cleared a bit by now (10:15pm).  Strange that it’s still light.  Time for bed now.



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