Arctic Refuge 2020

Luc and I had lots of ideas about potential summer trips for 2020, but when COVID hit and rural villages across Alaska shut down-- with rightful concerns about limited medical infrastructure and intergenerational trauma from the Spanish Flu-- we knew we needed to adapt our recreation plans to keep us self-supported, out of villages & on the road system.

Luc put his trip-planning skills to work and came up with a ~350 mile loop that started & ended on the Haul Road, got us out to the Sadlerochit Mountains (which we'd wanted to explore since we floated past them in our 2017 Arctic Refuge Traverse) and incorporated a food drop that some friends of ours already had planned. We pulled in Will Koeppen (the pics in this post are Will's, & I'd encourage reading the daily journal entries he posted on his Instagram, starting here) and hit the road.

My biggest take-away from this trip was how well the nervous system and mind/body...

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Western Brooks Range Traverse

In June 2019, my husband Luc Mehl, our friend Josh Mumm, and I set off on a three-week traverse across the Western third of Alaska's Brooks Range. Luc and I had traversed the two other thirds of the Brooks Range in previous summer trips, and were curious to see what we'd find on this final and most remote section.

We started on the Ambler River, on a drainage we'd floated past on a previous trip and had wanted to check out at the time. Then it was raining, cold, and the Ambler was a flooded muddy brown color, so even though we were tempted to stop we didn't. This time it was pretty different! 

 

Luc & I had done some walking along the Noatak River a few years back in the worst tussocks we'd ever seen, so we were mentally prepared for slow and tricky travel. Incredibly we found the opposite -- lots of nice hard, flat-ish ground, and much brush. 

But the best part was that the further west we traveled the more caribou trails we ran into. By the...

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Sore Hips from Backpacking?

 

Hip soreness during and after a long day backpacking can be a real bummer! It's a very normal occurrence, though, due to the stress we put our hips under when carrying our camping gear & food weight around in our backpacks, all while hiking around the mountains.

With a heavy pack, the weight's got to go somewhere... and in the process of trying to save our shoulders, we might be passing on the problem to our hips. The good thing is that our hips, more than our shoulders, are designed to carry weight. But sometimes after long days of this kind of thing, the hips also get tired, achy, and sore.

I've been personally having problems with sore hips after long backpacking days, and when I mentioned the issue to my friend & Physical Therapist Shasta Hood, he said to try thinking about it as an IT band issue. When we tighten our backpack's hip belt, we're  also pressing at the area that the IT band moves through, in effect shortening the IT band.

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