In my previous post I wrote about the first six days of our recent ten-day trip above the Arctic Circle to visit Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and Kobuk Valley National Park. That first portion of our Alaskan adventure found us kayaking down the Noatak River for around 80 miles through the Alaskan backcountry and camping on the beach each night along the way. We were visiting these two parks with eight other adventurers and two guides from Alaska Alpine Adventures (AAA). These were our last two parks to visit in Alaska out of the eight in the state as we saw the other six on our trip north last summer.
At the conclusion of our time on the river in Gates of the Arctic NP, two planes flew in and landed on a piece of gravelly tundra near our camp. All of us and our equipment could not fit on these relatively small planes, so we split up into two groups and made our way to our next destination: Kobuk Valley National Park, which is west of Gates. In Kobuk we visited the great sand dunes in the southeast portion of the park. These sand dunes cover an area of over 30 square miles and can reach a height of 100 feet. From the plane the dunes can be seen from a great distance and as we came in it became apparent that we were going to land right on the sand, being able to do so given the planes were rolling with oversized balloon tires.
Camp was established at the bottom of a tall dune amongst a stand of pines and near a clear stream. As it turned out, we also shared the area with a multitude of mosquitoes and both Laura and I were glad that AAA had suggested that we bring bug netting to cover our head. Over the course of our four days in Kobuk we struck out from our base camp on three hikes over the dunes that ranged from five to ten miles in length. One of these excursions took us through a pine forest where the ground was covered with white cladonia and other lichens that gave the appearance of snow, quite appropriate for this part of the world.
KOBUK VALLEY FROM THE AIR
But this incredible adventure in Gates of the Arctic NP and Kobuk Valley NP would have to come to an end, so we all broke camp, packed up our gear, and trudged back up a tall dune to the landing area for the planes that would take us to Kotzebue for our return trip to Anchorage. We would have a long day of travel ahead of us as we made our way back to Anchorage and a hot shower and a clean bed. We finally arrived at our hotel around 1100 p.m., did in fact luxuriate in a long, hot shower, and then watched our first Olympic coverage since the start of the games from a spacious bed buried in clean sheets and a fluffy duvet. Heavenly.
THE FLOWERS OF KOBUK VALLEY
A collection of photos from our visit to the dunes of Kobuk Valley NP are below. As with my post on Gates of the Arctic NP, I have included more photos than normal in an effort to provide a broad perspective on what we saw and did in Kobuk Valley NP, as well as sharing a number of photos that I took of the park from the air. Finally, I have also included photos of some of the beautiful flowers and vegetation resident in the park.
If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it. You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in a photo set. The sets are arranged to be viewed from the upper left corner across. To close a photo set, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.