to most wilderness areas, refuges and national parks in the Lower 48
states never get more than five miles from a highway or road of some
kind. The Arctic Refuge has no roads, no developments, no visitor
facilities. You must pack in your own food and supplies, erect your own
tent, and survive by your own wits. To get there, you must fly, take a
boat, mush a dog sled, or walk in on foot like Nyitray.
"Sometimes I feel like I've taken a journey back in time,"
Nyitray wrote in the journal of his 1989 Arctic trek. "As if I've been
transported to an earlier day somewhere in our ancient past with just
what I carry on my back. I wander a world where the reality of the
present (outside world) is neither seen, heard, or felt. Were it not
for this journal, I would surely lose all sense of time."
The Arctic Refuge is what the rest of North America used to be -- a
vast, unspoiled wilderness stretching from horizon to horizon. Despite
its barren-looking landscapes, it is a place rich with meaty game and
hungry fish. A man or woman skilled with a rifle or a fishing
pole need never go hungry.
The best hunters are the natives, an Eskimo people known as the
Gwich'in who have fished for salmon in the Yukon River and hunted the
caribou of the Porcupine herd for many generations. Their population is
small, maybe 7,000, and most live in tiny outposts along the edges of
the Arctic Refuge.
Social anthropologist David Murray, who has studied several Gwich'in
villages, explains that few modern-day residents are dependent on game
or fish for subsistence, but hunting and fishing helps families "gain
access to traditional foods that are almost regarded as comparable
to medicines in their capacity to restore people to well-being."
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The Age of Oil
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Forged In Fire