#24 Around the Campfire; A Note from your Old Uncle Dave
“I can’t think of a more appropriate way or place for Dave to die,” said my friend Kenyon Fields after I narrowly dodged a cranky bull musk ox that wanted to trample and gore me. We were on the banks of the Noatak River in Alaska’s Brooks Range, about midway on our 375-mile paddle this August. Kenyon quickly added, “Of course, none of us would want it to happen yet.”
I thought Kenyon’s thoughts were high praise, indeed. Musk oxen are among my most-loved wildeors thanks to the way they take me back to the Pleistocene. Whenever I see one in the Arctic, I can’t help but look for woolly mammoths, too. And, as for place—well, the Noatak is the flagship river of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System and has the most untrammeled watershed in the United States. It flows through the middle and western Brooks Range all in a National Park network of Gates of the Arctic, Kobuk Valley National Parks, and Noatak National Preserve—some 16.4 million acres—and one Wilderness Area network of 13 million acres. In other words, it’s as wild as anything in the United States and likely the best-shielded BIG wild haven in the world.
Yeah, it would be the best place and way to die. But in truth, the old bull was only halfhearted about thumping me and was mostly telling me to get lost. Slow and gimpy as I am, old (64) as I am, I got away and was able to paddle the rest of the whole 375 miles.
It’s no big hush that my health hasn’t been great the last few years and, on top of that, back woes and arthritic pains have kept me from getting out. A little over a year ago, I could hardly walk around the block and had to drop trips to a Great Old Broads for Wilderness get-together in Escalante, the Defenders of Wildlife Carnivore Conference in Denver, and the World Wilderness Congress in Mexico. The Noatak River trip last August was darn hard for me, but I did it. And I’m feeling much better now. This means that I’m back. And that “Around the Campfire” is back. More than a few of you have asked what happened to “Around the Campfire” and what happened to me. I’m sorry we had to put Campfire on ice for a while, but now we are bringing it back. As you can see, Susan Morgan has given it a better look, and she and a few others are going to ride herd on me to make sure that I write something at least once a month. There will be more changes coming to “Around the Campfire” and The Rewilding Institute, too, soon. I’ll wait to talk about those until later. In the next day or so, look for the first issue of the new “Around the Campfire with Uncle Dave” in your email.