This program combines academic and experiential learning. We will conduct our studies while traveling and living in some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring natural environments in the world. Students will develop their understanding of the geology, biology and natural history of this northern region through direct field experience, teachings of instructors, local experts, required readings and class discussions. The remote nature of the course requires that students are mature, responsible, motivated, patient, adaptable and resilient. Students will need to be in fairly good physical shape to participate in the program.
Weather conditions in the summer in Alaska are extremely variable, and require a high degree of flexibility among participants. The weather can be rainy and cold, or delightfully sunny and comfortably warm, and often fluctuates between the two extremes. Mosquitoes can be plentiful. We will be in Alaska during the “light” season with long hours of daylight and short nights. Students will want to bring good raingear and layers of clothing appropriate for a range of environmental extremes.
Safety in Alaska
Alaska is generally safe for travel. Traveling in the remote Alaska backcountry, however, is challenging. You will be further away from good roads, good communication networks and good safety services (emergency teams, evacuation and medical responses, hospitals, etc.) than in the lower 48. If an accident occurs, your instructors and classmates will likely be the first responders. Your instructor is a trained and experienced Wilderness First Responder. Much of the areas we will explore do not have a well-developed trail system and many routes involve cross-country travel over steep, rocky, and uneven terrain.
Black and grizzly bears pose special safety challenges. We will take safety precautions to avoid contact with bears, including each of us carrying bear spray and whistles. We will always hike together, in small groups led by an experienced member of the support staff. Before applying, you need to be aware of the risks inherent in traveling in remote areas of Alaska including but not limited to difficulties obtaining medical treatment and the other issues mentioned above.
Participants provide their own personal equipment for backpacking and base camping. Group items (tents, stoves, pots) are shared by everyone and will be organized by the instructor before the course. In brief, you will need a backpack (large capacity to hold your gear plus some group food and gear); sleeping bag (20 degree); sleeping pad; medium weight boots (all leather best); GOOD rain gear; personal first aid supplies; headlamp; daypack. A full, detailed equipment list will be provided upon acceptance to the program.
Meals will be handled by the instructor for almost ¾ of the program. Students will be on their own for meals for approximately 16 days total, mostly during the last part of the course based out of Cordova. We will occasionally eat at restaurants, but for the most part will be buying camping food and cooking on our own. Members of the group will all help shop for food, cook, clean, and organize. More details will be provided upon acceptance.