Going off the grid
I’m preparing for a 7 day solo, fly-in trip into Alaska’s remote western arctic. It is the result of many planning iterations, previous ones including more people, but this is what shook out in the end. While I have a preference for working solo, since I feel I do the best photography in this situation, it is a little more fun to do this kind of trip with another soul. This is for a variety of the obvious reasons, and in particular, the arctic grizzly bears that roam the region I’m headed for are not few in numbers. Of all the bears in the state, it is those which inhabit this region that make me most cautious. I have yet to have a threatening encounter with a grizzly bear, and I don’t plan to make this a first.
So what is in my head right now is planning and packing appropriately for travel in bear country. A clean camp and proper food storage is the first line of preparation. This includes food storage in a bear-proof container. Next is an aerosol fog horn, which is lightweight, extremely loud, and something easily used in a tent if necessary. Then pepper spray, which I experimented with the other night in order to get a good feel for the length and dispersal of spray (if you have never done this, it is strongly recommended-just sacrifice one pepper spray, it will be worth it). I’ll follow that up with a 44 caliber pistol, which is more of psychological sleeping pill, but in the end a possible last line of defense. In order for a gun to be effective for you, it needs to be quickly and easily accessible, and you need to be well practiced in shooting it, especially hand guns. In addition, I will probably line the camp with mono filament and a noise alert, mainly to make me aware if a bear comes into camp. Portable, electric bear fences are available these days, but I like the idea of sound alert. Thus far, all the bears I’ve seen in far and remote arctic regions bolted when they saw me, and this is the usual case, but not always.
My friends at Coyote Air, who I will be flying with have some good guidelines for for hiking and camping in bear country: http://flycoyote.com/trip-planning
Additionally, I’m really glad I followed through with the Wilderness First Responder class last May (80+ classroom/practicum hours of wilderness medicine), which provides a little more confidence in dealing with potential injuries in a remote setting. In today’s layered world of technical communications, I’ll have an Iridium Satellite phone, an aviator VHF radio, GPS, and my trusty Iphone, the latter is more for my digital bird book and a few other GPS-based applications. I’ve also got a solar charger for my Iphone, which I noted in a previous post on IPhone Apps for photography.
I’ll be off the grid and wonderfully disconnected from the wireless world for a week or so and hope to share some images of a magnificent landscape upon my return.