There are a handful of moments that I will always remember when I think about my most transformative travel experiences — the feeling of being shrouded by ancient redwoods while driving through Big Sur, the sunset reflecting off the playa in Oregon’s Alvord Desert, the overwhelming sense of smallness I feel anytime I stand on the edge of the Pacific Ocean while camping in La Push.
Alaska was something altogether different.
There were few places I had romanticized more than the wild landscapes of the Last Frontier. For as long as I’d loved the outdoors I felt a draw to drive further north than I had ever been.
I drove to Alaska with a friend while traveling for a personal project during the summer of 2015. Packed in a small Honda suv we drove the entirety of the Alcan Highway with no reference for what we would find besides the stories we’d read and the pictures we’d seen.
The magic of Alaska cannot be captured in words and photographs. It is truly wild — an area unlike any other in the world. A land of vast beauty unblemished by masses of people separated by thousands of miles of distance. There’s nowhere like it.
There are places worth protecting solely because of their natural value. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Alaska houses 19 million acres of diverse landscape — a home to hundreds of species of fish, migratory birds, and land and marine mammals.
Each year some 40,000 Porcupine Caribou calves are born in the “1002 area” of the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. These caribou have served as the primary sustenance of the Gwich’in people for generations. Oil exploration could have negative effects on not only the caribou population, but also the livelihood of the Gwich’in people as well as other floral and fauna that make up this diverse and delicate ecosystem.
Understanding this complex issue only comes with education. Learn more about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by watching “The Refuge” by Patagonia below.