“I always dreamed of greater wilderness like my Dad described in Alaska, so Alaska became a passion of mine and I knew it was something I wanted to do but I just didn’t know what it would entail at the time.”
4 years ago, author James Campbell took his then 14 year old daughter Aidan to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It would be the first of 3 trips the pair took together to Alaska’s wilderness and James writes about their adventures in a new book: Braving It: A Father, a Daughter and an unforgettable journey into the Alaskan Wild. They are currently on a book tour which is also a family road trip to celebrate Aidan’s graduation from High School.
“I grew up in the wild places of Wisconsin in the UP, hunting with my Dad in the marsh, exploring the backwoods, canoeing down the Wisconsin River, but I always dreamed of greater wilderness like my Dad described in Alaska, so Alaska became a passion of mine and I knew it was something I wanted to do but I just didn’t know what it would entail at the time.”
On the first trip, they spent a month helping James’ cousin Heimo Korth rebuild a cabin. Korth and his wife Edna are among the only permanent residents of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“My dad had initially proposed a river trip, but this was no river trip I can tell you that.” Aidan describes spending 7 hours a day peeling 25foot poles in a clearing, all alone, using a basic knife with a shot gun against a tree and bear bells around her neck “I knew that if a grizzly came charging out of the trees I would have been its dinner essentially so initially it did not match my expectations but I great to love the experience.”
The trip also served as rights of passage experience for teenage Aidan something that was a key component for James Campbell “I thought it was important…I think rights of passage in our society have passed away sadly.”
Campbell says that he had wanted his daughter to experience something that would give her life experience and life skills like self-reliance, composure, adaptability, toughness and grit “all those things are really important and under-emphasized in our culture today.”
Aidan says that the trip also showed her the importance of staying in touch with nature and the need to work to protect the wild places she loves.
“I think many people of my generation have lost touch with the wilderness and wilderness experience and that’s been taken over by technology and so they’ll turn to technology as a resource instead of wilderness. It was really important for me to be out there and to experience a wild place and I don’t think you necessarily need the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, there are wild places in your own backyard and we need to protect those as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”
Aidan blogs about her experience at grittygal.com.
Aidan and James Campbell will speak at the Tattered Cover at Aspen Grove in Littleton on Thursday July 14th at 7pm.