Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
The 16 high school students and 21 middle schooler’s listen attentively as I tell them of my Dram Walk. It is fun getting to know them. The principal and staff are of course dedicated and competent. As I leave I feel I have come to know a little bit about this wonderful tundra bound culture. And goodbye for now!
Monday, May 4th, 2015
It takes a few hours walking before the feint outline of the village of Nuiqsut appears as a black haze on the horizon. I am a mile away before I finally see the town buildings. Jenna has been pulling a small sled over the slick snow. It is loaded with my personal gear. Today I will leave David, Jenna and the wonderful supporting dog team. I am suddenly saddened but of course delighted to have made it all the way to this odd Inupiat village.
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Sunday, May 3rd, 2015
The wet, though deep, snow makes walking difficult. For almost the entire day I am forced to use snow shoes. But, I am now accustomed to this winter apparatus and only fall once. I notice Jenna taking a nap on the sled at mid-day. “You are tougher than us”, she says delighting me. I tell myself that I dare not end the day early even though I am tired. I push on!
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Saturday, May 2nd, 2015
Temperatures at noon finally reach 30 degrees. I am able to strip down on my overly layered clothes. Jenna reminds me that my sweating is not good. “You should be pleasingly cold”, she remarks. David gives me his anorak a loose fitting garment which fits easily over my head and allows full breathing of my body underneath. David made the garment.
That evening, again around 7 PM, I am delighted that the daily body sweat has gone. I am not shivering. But the wind is still cold. I retreat to the heated tent, enjoy another hot meal, and then dream time.
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Friday, May 1st, 2015
Heavy fog once again makes navigation difficult. There are no land marks, no big stones, even the whiteness and even that is now obscured by the fog.
I ask my guides to slow down and keep an eye on me. We make it through another day. And, I still feel good. Jennaâ€™s hot, fresh, food keeps me motivated. “Tom is eating more”, she says. And it is true.
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Thursday, April 30th, 2015
I plug along the unforgiving tundra. Blinding white is everywhere. No matter. My spirits are high. Tiny bits of tundra grass appear signaling another, and then another river crossing. I sink deeply into the dampened but deep snow. Finally, I try snow shoes. I fall, then fall again and am forced to get up myself while maneuvering the clumsy snow shoes.
My ego is significantly ramped up when Jenna tells me “You are one tough guy”. Well of course I push on again to nearly 7:30 PM. I am tired but still motivated.
Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
The day is overcast and cold again. As the snow deepens and I sink at times to my knees I try snow skis which have been especially made for me. Alas, this does not work. I slide bowlegged, fall, and fall again. Fortunately in some areas the strange tundra’s snow cover is hard enough for me to walk on with my boots. I use my newly acquired overshoes to keep out the wetness and accompanying cold. I am comfortable but sweating. At the end of the day I need to strip down quickly to avoid hypothermia. Something is wrong.
Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
The morning temperature is 0 degrees. It is tough to leave the heated tent shared by the three of us. Then I think of the dogs who silently slept on the tundra all night, they motivate me and I am off again. Heavy fog and a billowing wind make it difficult at times for me to follow the dog tracks. As the sled, and David mushing, disappear over a bank leading to a large frozen river I am momentarily concerned. I clear my snow goggles and move forward. All is safe at 7:30 PM when we make camp.
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Monday, April 27th, 2015
Well, my excellent guides David and Jenna informed me early in the day that we would have to change our route and leave from the Dalton Road more south of Deadhorse. Our start point west will be the Franklin Bluffs. I had remembered form walking down the Dalton to Fairbanks that the bluffs are known for grizzly bear sightings. No worry I am off!
No worry. The guides are great. The accompanying six dogs leading the way are calm, competent, and can easily pull the two sleds loaded with perhaps 500 pounds of supplies for our eight day journey. I follow the sled walking, of course. And I am struck by the silence and the loneliness of this place called the tundra.
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Saturday, April 25th, 2015
Once again I am on my way to the North Slope of Alaska. There, as always, has been a significant amount of logistical planning to make this trip happen. This trip I have again hooked up with my Arctic Wild guides. Our plan is to walk west from the Dalton Road near Deadhorse and go all the way to the Inupiat village of Nuiqsut. Of course this means walking over the barren treeless, road less, tundra. It should be fun.