DISPATCH BY BREE KESSLER
Two weeks ago a group of nearly 50 Swiss “explorers” arrived in Bettles. They split-up into teams of two or three and each team was dropped off at various locations throughout Gates of the Arctic National Park with the mission to hike back within 10 days to a meeting place on the Dalton Highway. A competition of sorts. Within a week, half the group called back to Bettles (some via a contact in Switzerland) to get picked up because they were either lost or didn’t think they could make it further.
Here is a re-telling of one emergency phone call received at the ranger station:
SWISS EXPLORERS: Um, we are either going to need to get picked up or an emergency food drop. Our bear barrels [the containers where food are stored] are gone and we have no more food.
RANGER: [concerned] What happened to your bear barrels? Did you have them near the river? Did they maybe fall in?
SWISS EXPLORERS: We don’t know. Maybe a bear decided to take all of them.
RANGER: [confused] All of them? Did you take a walk around the area and see if maybe a bear took them and left them nearby? Or did you check near the river to see if they fell in?
The park ranger then tells the Swiss explorers to look around the area and call back with an update.
SWISS EXPLORERS: Good news, we found the barrels.
RANGER: [relieved] Where did you find them?
SWISS EXPLORERS: Near our tents, we forgot we left them there.