For adventurous spirits, the yearning to explore lies deep within. When Alaska crosses their path, many heed it’s call. Two and a half years ago Andrew arrived in Alaska and his passion for the outdoors is mirrored through the lens of his camera. Below is a video of some of his recent work. You can also see Andrew’s photographs of Alaska at http://www.andrewholmanphoto.com
Considered one of the last frontiers of raw and rugged wilderness, the Brooks Range draws outdoor enthusiasts from around the world looking to immerse themselves in nature and connect to a land untouched. Located in the northernmost portion of Alaska, these mountains extend into Canada and are estimated to be up to 126 million years old. To help preserve this remote wilderness, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1960 and is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States.
In the summer of 2016 five of us made plans to explore the Brooks Range over 18 days. Our goal was to packraft the Kongakut river (a class 2-3 river) and bring paragliders to explore flying opportunities. This trip was considered a proof of concept idea as we had never attempted packrafting and paragliding simultaneously for 18 days. Thorough planning and logistics were required as help would potentially not be available for days if something went wrong.
As we began our trip a small “bush” plane flew us to the headwaters of the Kongakut river. These famous Alaskan beaver bush planes are capable of landing on difficult terrain. Our pilot chose a gravel bar along the river as our drop off point. Over the next few weeks we traversed over 40 miles towards the Beaufort sea in the Arctic.
As a precaution we brought an electric fence, bear spray, and bear resistant food bags to protect from curious or aggressive bears. Grizzly and Polar bears are known to roam the northern edges of the Brooks range. With melting sea ice there are reports of polar bears breeding with grizzly bears in an effort to survive a changing climate.
Working our way down the Kongakut river we stopped along several mountains to hike its ridgelines. Joe, Steve, and I paraglided from the top, while Sven and Kim explored the rest of the mountain by foot. An exhilarating feeling overcomes you while flying through the air; an intensity beaming with joy in witnessing such a remote and majestic part of the world.
Throughout our time hiking, packrafting, and paragliding we encountered bears, dall sheep, and wolves. We fished for Arctic Grayling to supplement meals, bathed in tributaries, and photographed beautiful flowers and migrating birds. The indigenous people of this area, the Gwich’in, learned to live in harmony with this sacred land. Their relationship to this landscape has been vital and continue to teach us lessons.
After arriving to the Brooks Range Howard Zahniser once noted “Without the gadgets, the inventions, the contrivances whereby men have seemed to establish among themselves an independence of nature, without these distractions, to know the wilderness is to know a profound humility, to recognize one’s littleness, to sense dependence and interdependence, indebtedness and responsibility.”
We are filled with appreciation for the opportunity to live in a land with so much beauty . Take a look at some of our pictures and a video of Joe Mclaughlin flying off one of the ridges.
As we approach the end of 2016, we reflect on our year. As a business focused on creating a positive community atmosphere and sharing the beauty of nature, we feel drawn to invest in our communities and support the continued conservation of nature. Travelers come to Alaska to experience it’s majestic and breathtaking scenery. Nature and wildlife inspire, and teach the importance of protecting such sacred land for future generations. Every year a portion of our revenue is donated to worthy causes that invest in our communities and promote conservation of Alaska’s backcountry. We are excited to share with you the programs supported this year by Base Camp Anchorage.
Alaska Trails mission is to support world-renowned sustainable trails through advocacy, education and technical assistance.
Their new program, Alaska Trail Volunteers brings volunteers to the park to address maintenance backlog on trails. This has saved the state money and trained citizens to be stewards of their public lands and trails. They are also collaborating with other organizations on mountain bike trails in the state.
We are excited to support Alaska Trails as they strive to make the wonders of Alaska accessible for all people without compromising Alaska’s beauty, natural history, cultural integrity or landownership interests.
To learn more about Alaska Trails visit them at http://www.alaska-trails.org/
Great Land Trust
Great Land Trust helps conserve valuable lands like wetlands and waterways, as well as salmon spawning streams. Since 1995, GLT has conserved over 40 miles of wild salmon streams, 9,000 acres of land, 5,000 acres of wetlands, six historic homesteads, and an 80-acre farm in Trapper Creek home to hundreds of migratory cranes. GLT also works in conjunction with private landowners to ensure the conservation of lands and waterways. Their goal is to also enhance public access to the outdoors including parks, access points to the Chugach State Park, and trail building projects. You can learn more about Great Land Trust at http://greatlandtrust.org/
Bean’s Cafe provides shelter, meals, and assistance for those in need. When people are under difficult times, Beans Cafe has been a blessing to many. They also recognizing that too many children were going hungry in the city of Anchorage. As a result, they created the Children’s Lunchbox to help feed children in need throughout the city. Beans Cafe was founded by Lynn Ballew, a pro- fessor and humanitarian. She and her daughter, nicknamed ‘Bean’, moved to Alaska in 1978 and immediately began to seek the help of the community to start her shelter, which she named Bean’s Cafe. To learn more, visit them at https://www.beanscafe.org/
We strongly believe in the positive impact traveling has on our youth. Every year Carpe Diem Education provides transformative experiential education to students throughout the United States. Students take a semester to travel in a region of the world to learn about themselves and the world around them.
First generation college students often do not have the resources to take advantage of this opportunity. In 2009, Carpe Mundi was established to provide scholarships and mentorship for first generation college students in the Portland area. To date 100% of Carpe Mundi students have completed or are working towards college degrees. To learn more about Carpe Mundi, visit them at https://www.carpemundi.org/
Alaska is a birders paradise. Hundreds of bird species migrate to Alaska every year to raise their young in the summer and feast on the abundant and rich diversity of plants and animals. Some of these birds include owls, cranes, shorebirds, songbirds, and swans. Some birds come as far as the other side of the world in Antarctica and return when the Alaska summer ends.
When hiking through the backcountry, one can be unaware of the beautiful diversity of birds in their surroundings. Certain characteristics such as the color and shape of their head, beak, wings, chest, and feet along with a bird’s song are like fingerprints that aid in identification. Bird lovers often use these characteristics to quickly identify them in the field.
One such birder is Ben Lagasse who came to Alaska for his third summer to study shorebirds as part of a long-term research project run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Summer of 2016 included surveys of breeding shorebirds on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, documenting breeding shorebird ecology in Barrow, and some post-work backpacking around the Atigun Pass and Galbraith Lake areas in the Brooks Range.
It was a pleasure to have hosted Ben at Base Camp Anchorage hostel while he prepared for the summers research outings. Many of his mornings were often spent sipping a cup of coffee while preparing light-level geolocator tags. These tags were then used to document the migration ecology and winter distribution of Dunlin (see above picture) throughout the circumpolar arctic.
We send a big appreciation to Ben and all the other passionate bird lovers out there who remind us of the rich diversity of birds around us and the important role they play in our environment. Here are a few birding moments Ben captured from this summer. For any ornithologists, birdwatchers, and nature lovers, an Alaskan summer has no shortage of opportunities for wildlife viewing as millions of birds flock north as part of their ancient annual migrations. See you next summer Ben!
September 30th marked the end our third hostel season. Each year brings excitement to meet the courageous travelers visiting Alaska. From solo travelers bicycling south to Argentina, to mountaineers climbing the tallest mountain in North America, many arrive because something within them beckons. It’s a familiar voice for outdoor enthusiasts — Alaska’s majestic and raw wilderness is at it’s heart. There are no guarantees in the wild and everyone who hikes in the backcountry must be willing to take some risks. The dangers are real, but with them come beautiful gifts that make a lasting impact on our lives.
For travelers whose first hostel experience was Base Camp Anchorage, we hope we left you with a positive impression of a community driven by social exchange and love of nature. This wouldn’t be possible without the joyful spirits who came to work at Base Camp Anchorage. We are grateful to Corey, Jake, and Britanie for creating a nourishing and welcoming space for travelers. We are also appreciative to our volunteers who gave their time and energy to keep the hostel clean and comfortable. It’s a long list but we thank Nathan, Adrian, Claire, Nessa, Katherine, Patrick, Nicole, and Cooper.
Lastly, we send an abundance of appreciation to our guests who stayed with us this summer. Many of you became our friends and part of our family. We wish all of you continued joy on your journeys.
Throughout the winter we will continue sharing stories of traveler’s adventures in Alaska. Until then, may your journey of exploration, insight and wonder continue wherever you find yourself!
Base Camp Anchorage hostel
Back in the 1970s travelling around the United States took some creativity for young adventurous travelers and backpackers. Many were often travelling to similar destinations but it was not easy to find affordable transportation where everyone could stay together. The green tortoise was created by taking buses and retrofitting them with beds to accommodate up to 36 passengers. Carpooling at it’s finest, they crisscrossed around the US to major cities like New York and San Francisco and the famous Burning Man in Nevada. The Green Tortoise has grown since then with trips in Central America, Mexico and Alaska.
Every year the ‘big green tortoise bus’ makes a stop at Base Camp Anchorage to relax between trips from Seattle to Alaska. Bernie Blaug has been leading trips for the Green Tortoise bus for several years now and his passion for the outdoors resonates at our hostel. We enjoy exchanging stories and learning about their travels as they wind their way through Canada and up to Alaska. To read more about the Green Tortoise Experience, check out their website here:
We had the privilege of having Dr. Krishna Sriperambuduru and his daughter Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru stay with us here at Base Camp Anchorage in early July. Dr. Krishna made almost-daily delicious Indian cuisine dishes to share with other guests here in the hostel and we learned about the accomplishments of he and his daughter. Both experienced mountaineers, Jaahnavi is 14 years old and attempting to become the youngest girl to ever climb the 7 highest summits on the 7 different continents. She has already climbed Mount Kosciuszko in Australia (7,310 ft), Mt. Elbrus in Russia (18,510 ft), Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa (19,341 ft.) and most recently Alaska’s own Mt. Denali (20,308 ft) which she summited on July 10th of this year. ‘It was the hardest climb yet’ Jaahnavi said afterwards. Her next climb will be Mt. Vinson in Antarctica (16,067 ft) which she will be heading to in December of this year.
We are proud of Jaahnavi and wish her and her father the best on their climbing adventures. You can follow her during her travels or donate to help her on her upcoming climbs at her website here:
Our friend Domnic from Toronto is a talented photographer and stayed with us earlier this summer during his travels of Alaska. He was fortunate enough to have a very close encounter with a few bald eagles, golden eagles, and sea gulls on a beach during his drive to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. These shots were taken with a Nikon D610 camera. Enjoy the moments he captured, as well as some of his other impressive photography. All the best to you Domnic!
For many travelers, the moment arrives when your spirit yearns for adventure. It takes courage to leave the comforts and security of home to explore the unknown. Maud Scheid heeded life’s call and took one year off from work in France to ride her bicycle around North and South America. She begins her journey in Alaska and will be bicycling down to San Francisco over the next 5 months. She will then fly to Peru and continue her trip in South America. It was a joy to have Maud stay at our hostel during her travels. Carrying all your possessions on a bike for one year takes organization and endurance. We wish Maud a safe journey filled with friendship and adventure.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
We started our hostel season a few weeks ago with a celebration and special performance by the Bergamot. An Indie folk pop band duo based out of New York, Jillian and Nathaniel have been touring the country sharing their beautiful music. With over 12 years experience singing and writing music, they have created a special synergy in their performances. We were honored to have them perform at our hostel while on tour in Alaska. Check out a brief video below of their performance with us and visit their website at www.thebergamot.com