Crossing The Gates Of Alaska
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The snow forms the beginning of a near vertical chute that falls at least a thousand feet. My feet, shaking, manage to hug the thin edge of solid rock. I feel my heart creep to my throat and warm sweat drip down my back, defying the subzero Arctic air. Somehow I reach a plateau and think the worst is behind me. I couldn't be more wrong.
This is the story of Dave Metz's death-defying, breathtaking, and passionate journey through the Arctic outback. Driven by his lifetime reverence for the outdoors, Dave, with the help of his two beloved Airedale terrier dogs, embarks on a three-month epic of survival and astonishing determination that rivals the most daring world-class explorations.
I find myself on a gigantic trench hemmed in on both sides by peaks that look like ice-daggers from another world. The idea that I'm at the mercy of the wild sinks in. . .and I desperately want out of this endless, icebound maze.
Skiing up frozen rivers, enduring bitter nights at twenty below zero, and staggering across vast reaches of barren tundra and scrub woodlands, Metz's unprecedented 600-mile trek took him to the remotest regions of the untamed North. In frightening and stunning detail, he shows us an unwavering spirit and a compelling sense of adventure that can only be satisfied when truly free. . .
Dave Metz has been to Alaska over a dozen times in the last twenty years. He's kayaked across Alaska twice, once with his beloved dog Jonny riding in the bow, and lived there for two years in remote locations. He's also kayaked and trekked in Peru, Brazil, Canada, and Borneo, and has hiked across most of Oregon and Washington. Despite his forays away from home, he managed to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Portland State University, where he also did course work in zoology. He currently works for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as a seasonal fish biologist. In addition to studying mammals and the preservation of indigenous cultures in rain forest regions, he continues zealously to embark on wilderness survival and exploration adventures, cycling, and hiking trips. He lives Philomath, Oregon.
I tie up the dogs next to my pack and enter, anticipating incredible amounts of food. My eyes light up when I see all the clean food stacked neatly on the shelves in their shiny packages. I buy dog food, a loaf of bread, several bags of chocolates, a bag of cookies, and a large bottle of apple juice. I pay the cashier and give a quick nod without saying a word. He seems unsure of me in my thin, scraggly state, and I’m too exhausted to talk. I walk back outside with a deep sense of urgency and
inch over the crack and pick up speed again. “Hike, hike,” I say with some gusto in my voice. This gets the dogs trotting faster away from the rip in the ice. There is no weakening of the ice below our feet at all as we move past. There are no creaking sounds, only the freakish silence of the wide, arctic waters and the ruffled breaths from the panting dogs in front of me. Several Eskimo say the bay ice is several feet thick, but I still don’t like it. They say the bay ice is so thick that
feel comfortable around her. Sometimes she would know what I was trying to say even when I wasn’t quite sure yet. April 4, 2007, eighteen miles from Kiana Late in the afternoon I arrive at the outskirts of Kiana in good spirits after skiing the last nine miles in two hours. I slow and let the dogs play as I ski into town. After about eight days of travel, I’m right on schedule. Today is their birthday so I will let them eat as much as they want and make each of them a pot of milk from a powder
out again. Then we head east. This part of the river is frozen into continuous rough chunks that make for a bumpy ride, but only slow our progress slightly. The dogs are eager and pulling strongly. We come across wolf tracks the size of saucers on a back channel of the river. The tracks appear to be following moose. I can see footprints and fur-filled dung littering the snow. The dogs become more upbeat when they smell the wolves, and they want to follow their trail. I allow the dogs to pull hard
cutting across my course. I’m traveling on the east side of the Ambler before it turns in front of me, and there was no way I could have crossed it earlier. The river was even deeper then. It cuts across my route in front of me like a lacerated wound. Then it extends high up into the steep, jagged mountains to the east. There doesn’t appear to be a way to cross up there, either, and I can’t waste the energy to walk all the way up there when I’m pretty sure it would be for nothing. I have to find