Alaska’s Kigluaik Mountains

A Rugged Range above Nome for Year-Round Backcountry Adventuring

Kigluaik-MountainsThe Kiguluaik Moutains are inviting for their ruggedness and awesome beauty. Visitors will find all kinds of superb recreational opportunities, from fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering and backcountry skiing to snowmobiling, dog mushing and photographing wildlife. There is evidence of early gold seekers, who entered this region at the turn of the century, throughout the spectacular and changing panorama of mountain passes and glacial valleys.

Sport fishing for Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden is excellent in Canyon Creek as well as in the Sinuk, Grand Central and Cobblestone rivers. Chum and pink salmon may also be caught from early July to mid-August.

denali outerrange

Denali’s Trailless Wilderness

Hiking the Backcountry

denali outerrangeLess than a half-mile from the Denali park road and only ten minutes into our three-night backpacking trip, Dan Hall and I come to a sudden, unplanned stop. Seventy-five feet upstream, a brownish form moves among a clump of creek-bed willows. Then, sensing us, it too becomes still. The bus driver had cautioned us that this valley is prime grizzly habitat and”BEAR” is the first thought to run through my mind. But within moments my imagined grizzly is transformed into a small, rusty brown critter with a long bushy tail: An adult red fox steps slowly out of the willows, a limp ground squirrel clutched in its jaws. Instant relief, tinged with embarrassment. How could I mistake a fox for a bear?

The fox stares at us a few seconds, as though judging our intent. Then, keeping a safe distance, it scurries downstream and quickly disappears around a bend, headed home with breakfast for its litter of kits.


Wildland Ethics – Pack It In, Pack It Out

backpackPick up and pack out all of your litter. Trash and litter have no place in the backcountry. On the way out-when your pack is light try to pick up litter left by others.

Reduce litter at the source. When preparing for your trip, repackage food into reusable containers or remove any excess packaging. This simple practice lessens the chance that you will inadvertently leave litter behind.

Trash. Trash is the inorganic waste brought into the backcountry, usually from overly packaged products. It is best to pack out all your trash even if it appears burnable. Much of the “paper” pack aging used today is actually lined with non-burnable foil or plastic. Tin and aluminum cans, plastic, tin foil and glass must always be packed out.


Wildland Ethics – Properly Dispose of What You Can’t Pack Out

packingAs visitors to the backcountry, we create certain types of waste which usually cannot be packed out. These include human waste and waste water from cooking and washing.

Human waste. Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, the spread of disease and the aesthetic consequences to those who might see it. Burying human feces in the correct location and manner is the most effective practice for avoiding these problems.


Wildland Ethics – Use Fire Responsibly

fire-usesThe use of campfires in the backcountry was once a necessity and is now steeped in history and tradition. This tradition is so entrenched in our minds that for some the thought of going on a backcountry camping trip and not having a fire is almost unthinkable. Yet the natural appearance of many areas has been compromised by the overuse of fires and the ever-increasing demand for firewood. The development of versatile and efficient campstoves has facilitated a shift away from the traditional fire, making them essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. Stoves are fast and flexible, and they eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. If you typically depend on fires as a light source, consider using a light-weight candle lantern as an alternative. The most important factors in determining whether or not to have a fire are:


Concentrate Impacts in High-Use Areas

backcountry-hikingConcentrating use in popular or high-use areas is a simple and effective method to reduce the impact of a backcountry visit. Main travel corridors and popular destinations usually have well-established trails and campsites. Continued use causes little additional impact to these features although overcrowding diminishes the overall experience for some.

Respect other visitors’ need for solitude. When traveling in the backcountry, care is required to minimize disturbance of other visitors. The feeling of solitude is enhanced when contacts are infrequent, party size is small and behavior is unobtrusive.


Minimize Use and Impact of Fires Part 2

Selecting a Leave No Trace fire site.

camp-fireAt established sites, use existing fire rings. These help concentrate the impact associated with fires and keep surrounding areas in more natural condition. Constructing new rock rings for campfires or building fires against boulders or ledges is inappropriate as it blackens rocks and disturbs underlying soils. If you choose to have a fire where there are no existing fire rings, you must take the extra responsibility to learn and practice stringent Leave No Trace techniques, such as those outlined below.


Minimize Use and Impact of Fires

use-of-fireCampfire impacts are among the most common and obvious recreational impacts in wildlands. In backcountry areas of the Northeast, campfires are generally discouraged, and in any of the region’s alpine zones, fires should never be built. Backcountry visitors should always carry the appropriate equipment for warmth, shelter and light, and a lightweight campstove for all cooking needs.

This recommendation against a once-traditional part of back country camping is due to ecological and aesthetic problems at recreation sites caused by overuse and abuse of fires and wood supplies. Because of these cumulative impacts, some land managers and owners have prohibited the use of campfires. Others allow their use in designated sites, or by permit only.


Properly Dispose of What You Can’t Pack Out

outdoor-backpackIn the backcountry, we create certain waste that usually can not be packed out. This includes human waste and waste water from cooking and washing.

Dispose of human waste responsibly. Correctly disposing of human waste helps prevent pollution of water sources, the spread of illness such as Giardia, and aesthetic impacts to other visitors. Some designated campsites have outhouses. If it will work into your route, use these facilities.


Leave What You Find

campsitePeople come to wildlands to enjoy them in their natural state. Allow others the same sense of discovery by leaving plants, rocks, historic, cultural and archaeological artifacts as you find them. We all have a responsibility to anticipate and reduce our social impact upon others and to be considerate towards the wildland environment and its animal inhabitants.

Minimize site alterations. Consider the idea that good campsites are found and not made. Leave the area in as good or even a more natural condition than you found it. Do not construct lean-tos, tables, chairs or other rudimentary improvements. If these sorts of amenities are desired, carry a lightweight camp chair or plan your overnight stays at sites with tent plat forms, shelters or huts. If you find excessive or inappropriate fire rings, log benches or tables, etc. in campsites, it is generally appropriate to clean up and/or dismantle them. If in doubt, consult the managing agency or landowner before acting.