Gates of the Arctic
There is only one American national park left and our quest of 59 before 18 will be accomplished. We left Kobuk Valley on a small bush plane around lunchtime. It was Thursday, August 8, 2014. On our hour long flight towards Gates of the Arctic the weather became calm. All four of us had a gleaming glow in our eyes, a radiant smirk on our faces, and a tranquil feeling in our hearts.
As we looked at the window and at each other we were full of pride. It was an ambitious and tenacious journey with many obstacles. However, during this undertaking there were many jubilant triumphs as well. The greatest achievement is experiencing the exploration of all 59 national parks together as a family.
It all began in 2009 as a family vacation when Luke was 11 and Winston was 10-years-old. Our first national park family adventure was in Yosemite. In that park, ever since hiking in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, we have been addicted. This became a wonderful obsession of quality family time together and happiness. At every possible opportunity we wanted to see more of America. We wanted to see our countries most amazing natural wonders.
As we looked down out the window at the endless streams and undisturbed mountains, we couldn’t help but to reflect on what we have endured. We’ve prevailed through our persistence. We have discovered ourselves as we searched deep into the wilderness and observed all sorts of wildlife. Finally, our aspirations have been realized when we entered into Gates of the Arctic National Park territory.
The tremendous beauty of the premier wilderness here in Alaska is pure nirvana. There is no human influence. There is just tundra, trees, rivers and streams. There are no roads, trails or signs. This park is entirely above the Arctic Circle. The landscape is endless and full of wildlife.
Winston saw a group of Dall sheep on the side of a mountain. Alisa spotted a few grizzly bears. One was running along a crystal clear blue river and another seemed so huge standing on the tundra below us. Luke saw an awe-inspiring muskox. Overexcited to see the muskox we decided to land. We had never seen this magnificent creature before.
The excellent pilot landed on a creek bed full of river rocks. We got out of the plane and took a long deep breath. We have made it! We landed safely and began hugging and congratulating each other. The boys were jumping with joy. The exhilarating feeling of accomplishing our quest was overwhelming.
The stream water here was so pure and uncontaminated. We began walking on the creek bed to try and find the muskox again. We only had about an hour to explore more of this ultimate wilderness. We found the muskox footprints. The arctic animal path went through the dark sand, over some pebbles and across the translucent water.
The muskox was about 75 yards away from us on the other side of the stream staring at us. Respecting the wildlife boundaries, we kept our distance. We marveled at the peaceful scene. The picturesque moment was forever etched into our minds. Soon the muskox slowly walked away and we continued to explore.
Lastly, we skipped some rocks on the water. The men were quite successful making their rocks skip several times over the water while Alisa’s efforts were unfortunate. During her first attempt, she tried to skip her rock, but it sank immediately. She took several minutes analyzing the creek bed to find the perfect stone. As a lone seagull flew over us seemingly admiring the male stone throwing talents, Alisa finally found her magical rock. When she tried again she got the same result.
It seems like mother nature has a sense of humor. Sometimes when we are bored on a long hike a snake appears on the trail. Other times when everything is wonderful the trail is flooded and we must cross barefoot. This is what adventures are all about. This is why we get into the wildlife.
This was our 59th American national park explored together as a family. The journey was completed. The quest was accomplished. Now what do you do when all of your dreams come true?