23-Jun-2002 -- We are confident that very few – if any – humans have ever set foot on this spot. And if they have, they didn’t linger.
The international expedition party included Paul Barter and Lynette Nicholas of Nelson, New Zealand and Tony Zamora, Leann Ferry & Ted Ferry-Zamora of Anchorage, Alaska. We set out in our VW camper van from Cantwell east on the Denali Highway – a fairly rough gravel road through spectacular, and mosquito laden, Alaskan scenery. It was a cold, rainy afternoon when we reached the point on the road that we determined was closest to 63º N 147º W. We turned off the road to discover a quiet, lonely spot to call our Base Camp. Ted was the first member of the party to drop out – just before setting out on the trail, he encountered a porcupine and received a face full of needles. Then, Leann and Lynette decided that it would be best (and safest and warmest) to remain back in the campervan with the Sauvignon Blanc. Paul and Tony set out on the trail alone to ponder why it was that women have a longer average life span than men.
According to the GPS the Base Camp was approximately 3.38 miles (bearing 121º) from our confluence. We set out bushwhacking directly for the point and then quickly fell upon a hunting trail that took us (more or less) straight toward the spot (which we had dubbed Barzam Fernic in honor of ourselves even though the women were smart enough to stay behind). The journey began at 6:30pm and we allotted ourselves 4 hours for the round trip – darkness in Alaska’s summer being, of course, not a problem.
At approximately 50 feet from the van we encountered heavy mosquito resistance as we walked through high brush habitat that biologists would describe as "bear intensive". We did encounter "bear sign" – e.g. fleshy caribou femurs, fresh bear scat, paw prints. As the Alaskan Brown (Grizzly) Bear is the most ferocious man-eater in North America we had come amply armed with pepper spray – which we chose to believe would guard us as well as any shotgun. Biologists say that it is of utmost importance while traversing "bear habitat" not to startle or surprise the bears. Therefore we sang repeated, loud choruses of the "Hey Bear, Ho Bear" song. Repeatedly. In three languages. Loudly. And in rap.
At approximately 1.78 miles from base camp the hunting trail we had followed petered out and we were forced to bushwhack again through more high brush. At approximately 2.3 miles from Base Camp we encountered an area which we affectionately dubbed Swampy Acres. At this point, the mosquito situation took a turn for the worse. At approximately 3.0 miles from Base Camp we came back out of the brush to discover another hunting trail leading vaguely towards Barzam Fernic. This trail we affectionately dubbed, "Mosquito Alley". At this point the mosquito situation took yet another turn for the worse.
Finally, in a small clearing in a stand of black spruce we reached "ground zero". We had hoped to celebrate our achievement with a leisurely sip of beer. However, the mosquitoes were also wildly celebrating our arrival – we being the first non-fur-bearing mammals they had ever seen. Paul called out from within a dark cloud buzzing around his head, "OK. Where’s the mosquito repellent." Tony replied, "Um....uh-oh." Paul, said "Shit."
We quickly placed a document of our visit into a bottle and buried the bottle beneath a fallen log, took our verification photos, then buggered off.
The return trip was less a celebration of achievement than a "dash for safety". The mosquitoes which, on the way out, had seemed unbearable were merely a reconnaissance party for the onslaught we met on our return. Our walking (stumbling) speed averaged 2.25 miles per hour. There were no bands to cheer our successful completion, but we were met by two sleepy (and proud) wives (and Ted).
If you wish to visit this little corner of Alaska we would recommend the following equipment: GPS receiver, mosquito netting, lots of DEET.