"What the Caribou Taught Me About Being Together, and Apart"

"Disappearing in the Arctic wilderness for half a year, a traveler discovered there is always a way forward."

"Over the past week, as each thread of our ordinary existence unravels and travel feels like something we used to do, I’ve been holding tight to a single mental image. The deep brown gaze of a caribou calf as it passed inches from my face. The whites of its eyes as it glanced at me in surprise. The animal’s fear of the unknown dwarfed by its clarity of purpose.

On St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, my husband and I had set out on a 4,000-mile, human-powered journey from Bellingham, Wash., in the Pacific Northwest to Kotzebue, Alaska, far above the Arctic Circle. For nearly six months, traveling by rowboat, ski, packraft, foot and canoe, we’d made our way across some of the most remote landscapes on earth.

In the last days of our trip, we were canoeing down the swollen Noatak River in the Brooks Range of northern Alaska. Winter had arrived early that year and we paddled through the damp chill of rain turning to snow. Bundled and shivering, we never imagined we’d find ourselves hunkered down on a riverbank surrounded by caribou, our breath mingling with theirs."

Caroline Van Hemert reports for the New York Times April 6, 2020.

Source: NY Times, 04/07/2020