Glancing at my first two postings, I realize that I’ve devoted little of my discussion/reflections to the Arctic wilderness itself. Why have some called the Brooks Range our continent’s “ultimate mountains”? And what qualities make the Central Brooks Range and Gates of the Arctic National Park particularly alluring to me (and others)?
Though the Central Brooks Range stirred me, it wasn’t because the mountains were spectacular, at least in the way people ordinarily use the word. By Alaskan standards, they’re mostly ordinary hills (though there are some notable exceptions, for instance the Arrigetch Peaks and Mount Doonerak, the latter discussed in more detail below). Most of the mountains top out below five thousand feet; and their comparatively gentle snow- and ice-free slopes can be ascended without any mountain-climbing expertise or technical gear. But that was part of their appeal:
Thinking back, there were other reasons the Central Brooks Range quickly became a special place to me: it’s where I saw my first grizzly bear, first heard the howling of wolves, first witnessed the northern lights. And it’s where I began to recover the deeper sense of wild wonder I’d once known as a boy. This place, more than any other I had known (or would come to know) stirred old, buried understandings of my connection to, and place within, the wider, wilder world.
- In Part 3, I also present a lengthy discussion on the importance – even the necessity – of solitude. What role, if any, does solitude play in your life? Do you consider it essential to becoming intimate with wildness? Why or why not?
- Are you familiar with “the great new wilderness debate”? What is your perspective on the American idea – and ideal – of wilderness?
- What wilderness (or other landscape) is especially magical to you? And why?