Our anticipation was high with only two national parks left and our quest of 59 before 18 was eminent to be realized. We left Kenai Fjords mid morning on Wednesday, August 6th and drove North towards Anchorage. The scenic drive was picturesque and the Chugach National Forest was astonishing. Our attitudes were jubilant and our minds were full of anticipation because the next day we were going to accomplish our goal.
When we arrived at the airport in Anchorage we returned our automobile and waited for our flight to Kotzebue. We found a decent table at Chili’s, ate lunch and played cards. Our game of choice was poker, specifically Texas Hold-em. The winner would be rewarded with ice cream. Winston won!
We boarded the plane, took off and landed safely above the Arctic Circle in Kotzebue. Next, we checked into the Nullagvik Hotel and took a short walk around the tiny town. Fearlessly, we decided to take the polar plunge and briefly swim in the cold Kotzebue Sound. This body of water connects to the Arctic Ocean. All four of us survived.
Costs of goods are high and supplies are limited here. We purchased a few groceries and got ready for bed. The sky was full of sunshine when we went to sleep. (during the summer, North of the Arctic circle, the sun is above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year and therefore visible at midnight).
When we woke up the next morning our hearts were full of joy. This splendid Thursday, August 8, 2014 was the day when we would accomplish 59 before 18. We arranged for Arctic Backcountry Flying Services, LLC to take us to Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic. The four of us and the pilot boarded the small bush plane. On our flight the landscape was extraordinary. The grasses looked like carpeting while the thousands of Cypress trees were standing tall and undisturbed.
When we entered within the Kobuk Valley National Park boundary the landscape became more boggy with several streams. During the 90 minute flight the most apparent thing that we noticed was the lack of human influence. This majestic wilderness just Mother Nature and nothing else.
We landed on the Great Kobuk Valley Sand Dunes. No roads lead to this park and it is entirely above the Arctic Circle. There are no trails or signs. It is only reachable by foot, dogsled, snowmobile, and aircraft. Kobuk Valley is also one of the least visited in the National Park System. We we extremely fortunate to be here with utmost solitude, open wilderness, and no noise pollution.
This remote pristine paradise was our 58th national park explored together as a family. When we began to hike around on the sand we saw no other human footprints but our own. We did notice some animal prints in the sand and began following them. The rain started to fall as we hiked toward the stream and treeline. Since we only had an hour to investigate this distant wild environment, we turned around continued to walk on the sand dunes.
It is amazing to be in an American national park all by ourselves. In our opinion, it is God’s amusement park filled with adventures to be discovered, memories to be created, and dreams to be fulfilled. We boarded the plane and headed East towards our final park… Gates of the Arctic.
Later back in Kotzebue, at the Western Arctic National Parklands Heritage Center, the boys stamped their National Park Passport book. Alisa became a junior ranger while Luke and Winston canceled Kobuk Valley.