He Wasn’t Drunk

1503-tracks- 1

1503-tracks-

This is Birch Creek. I’ve long wanted to get some good pictures of it, and I’m happy with these. Birch Creek is home to about 30 people, or maybe 20. Nobody moves here looking for work. In fact, nobody really moves here at all.

Well, that isn’t totally accurate – living in the interior of Alaska has a semi-nomadic quality to it and people, usually family relatives, do come and go.

Gwich’in Athabascans have long dwelt in Birch Creek, fishing and hunting the abundant wildlife. Lawrence does, and one cold, February day earlier this year he was having a drink or two, which may or may not have had something to do with the sudden urge that overcame him to go for a walk. Hum, Fort Yukon’s not too far away.

It’s worth noting that a February stroll across the Yukon Flats probably isn’t anything like a stroll down your neighborhood street. If you are a crow, then Fort Yukon is about 30 miles from Birch Creek, but if you are bipedal like Lawrence and me, then you are looking at a 50 mile hike.

It also bears mentioning to those who may not have followed this blog for long that there are no roads across the Yukon Flats; it is true wilderness. There are no mile markers, no signs that you would recognize. There may be snow-go tracks, if they haven’t been obscured by fresh snow. Sometimes there are stars visible. That’s about it. Except for wolves and the like.

Fortunately for Lawrence, he had plenty of time on his hands. He walked for 15 hours and almost made it. A search team found him 4 miles outside the Fort and brought him in. He felt great, except his legs were a little sore.

Lawrence, by the way, is 52 years old. It was -35˚F when he strolled out the door, and there were less than 6 hours of winter light per day.

His family said he wasn’t really drunk, but they also conceded that he may not have been completely sober. Either way, my hat’s off to Lawrence for accomplishing something I would never try.

inspired by Dorothy Chomicz’s story on Newsminer.com

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15 thoughts on “He Wasn’t Drunk

    • It was pretty funny, wasn’t it? I think many Athabascans are like Lawrence – confident in their knowledge of the land and their abilities to survive the rigor of Arctic living. Thanks, Fred.

    • The Athabascans are a hardy people. I’m still trying to figure out how he managed to make such good time on foot. At 30 below, I hyperventilate if I try to maintain a normal pace!

  1. Could be that bit of alcohol acted like antifreeze and help him to survive the walk. I think it would be interesting if he would write about his walk to Fort Yukon. And considering I can no longer walk down the one hill to my neighbors home I find his willpower amazing.

    • Thank you, Robert. I visited your site, and wish I had it in me to produce a book. Best of luck with that. Glad you liked the photographs, and look forward to getting to know you better.

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