Coldfoot, Alaska isn’t much to look at. A gas station, restaurant, and a landing strip are about all there is the small outpost halfway between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway. Meeting our pilot, Dirk, gave me a little more confidence. Contrary to the machismo that I’d anticipated in the more remote parts of The Last Frontier, Dirk was helpful and modest, assuring us that our timing was fine—late if anything.
The hour and a half flight into our base camp was surreal. In emotional limbo between the relief of finally committing to an adventure and the anxiety of what lay ahead, I decided to just relish in the euphoria of getting to experience what so few people get to. Dirk set us down gently, by bush pilot standards, on a small island in the middle of the Noatak and we quickly unloaded. Dirk took off and the four of us stood alone in the wilderness, 10 days from other humans or help, grinning.