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North Slope Brooks Range Alaska Trip


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The fall hunting season has arrived in Alaska and I had an epic trip last week through the 40 Mile River country and on to the north slope of the Brooks Range. This will be a multiple post picture essay as the pictures show better than words what Alaska has to offer when the weather is nice. The first picture shows where I ended up for several days between the Saddlerochit Mountains to the north and the pictured Shublik Mountains to the south. This was a hunting trip that turned more into a camping trip with a rifle and then paleo adventure as I started to recognize the unique geologic features which are very evident from the air with little cover vegetation. Upon returning home researched where I was and this location has one of the best exposures of Middle Jurassic rocks in northern Alaska. I was camped 7 miles from the Ignek Mesa and hiked in the area several days without seeing a single person. 

 

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This is the Katakturuk River that cuts through the Saddleochit Mountains and demonstrates that there must have been a slow uplift of the mountain as the mountains are over 5,000' in elevation on either side of the river cut. To the north is the Arctic Ocean about 30 miles from the picture. 

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First advice for going with a pack dog is don't put anything you want to keep dry in the dog pack. The weather was really warm for the arctic and Kobuk was in every creek to his belly even if it meant he had to lay down. This exposure is Early Bajocian and assigned  Kignak Shale. 

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I want to be abundantly clear this was a catch and release trip as NO collecting is allowed without a permit in all the areas I travel this trip. ALL pictured fossils were left laying where they were sighted with these being on the top of this shale.

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Heading back to camp after the first day of hiking.

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The following day we got up early and went over to the head of the valley by a mesa and saw beautiful scenery and a few more fossils as well as the first sheep tracks of the trip.

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We came a cross several caribou each day and they all still had velvet on their antlers.

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This was the first evidence of a fossil I saw on this hike and stopped looking for sheep and more at the geology. Within 20 feet saw an amazing sight and it was a wonder I saw it at all due to how small it was.

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The ammonite is .8 centimetres in diameter and my eye caught the mold with ammonite right beside it.

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These belemnite pieces were farther up the hill.

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These tracks are from Dall sheep which had been in the area recently which was interesting as this hill was just that not steep at all.

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Unfortunately here is one of the two sheep I saw on that hill. Both were winter kill and likely due to the warm winters we have been having with deep snow and thaw/freeze cycles. The sheep starve as not able to paw through more than 30 cm of accumulated snow. If the snow crusts from melting and then freezes the wind does not clear the snow and the sheep starve. The fossils were all within arms reach of these sheep bones.

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Kobuk in a recently occupied sheep bed.

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This was seen on the hike back down the hill.

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Interesting concretions of this formation.

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Similar fossils from farther down the valley from the previous days hike.

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I saw this fossil and suspect it may be crinoids but are new to me so not sure.

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Shows where the Jurassic age ammonite was seen.

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another fun trip into the Alaskan outback.  Thanks for taking us along.  

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Thanks for sharing. More to come?

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6 minutes ago, Ludwigia said:

Thanks for sharing. More to come?

You are welcome and yes more to come:) 

Canning River corral and Colville River dino treats laying on the gravel bars. 

Will get the pictures together soon.

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Fossildude19

This is the kind of report I look forward to. 

Great scenery, and great fossils. 

Thanks for posting.  :) 

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When I see your name I always open it up and read the thread.  Always lots of good photos and great report.

 

RB

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BellamyBlake

I appreciate this immersive report! I had the pleasure of visiting Anchorage in June 2019 for a conference and, thankfully, got a lot of nature in. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I only hope to explore the rest of Alaska's beauty on a longer trip. Your trip report brought me back to those memories. 

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Very nice fossils, and very nice scenery!  Thanks for taking us along on your adventures!

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I truly enjoyed following the account of your trip, the beautiful scenery, and your fantastic finds!

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I love your reports... I especially appreciate the scenic photos. 

My only trip to Alaska was 10 hours in the Anchorage airport on my way to Cam Ranh Bay in 1970. I recall the stuffed Kodiak bear. Never seen one of those before.

Your photos are a better way to understand Alaska.

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1 hour ago, lcordova said:

I got to ask, you also are the pilot?

 

Icordova;

Yes, I am the pilot and Kobuk the copilot.  :Wink1: The trip put 25.6 hours on the tach and the plane needed an oil change when I got back. I am also the mechanic for my aircraft with this one being rebuilt by myself over six winters so I know it very well. 

Bob

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4 hours ago, AK hiker said:

Icordova;

Yes, I am the pilot and Kobuk the copilot.  :Wink1: The trip put 25.6 hours on the tach and the plane needed an oil change when I got back. I am also the mechanic for my aircraft with this one being rebuilt by myself over six winters so I know it very well. 

Bob

So cool!

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On 8/30/2020 at 12:58 AM, lcordova said:

So cool!

Whats the model/year of your aircraft???? I love that you are the mechanic and rebuilt it!!! 

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On 9/1/2020 at 11:23 AM, lcordova said:

Whats the model/year of your aircraft???? I love that you are the mechanic and rebuilt it!!! 

It is a 1950, Piper PA 18 SuperCub that while rebuilding I modified for use in Alaska's back country.  

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I loved your report.  I have been to Alaska with my (now) wife for a week of fishing and nature sightseeing. It was incredible up there.  We never got much north of the Kenai Peninsula, though.  I would love to go see the vast emptiness of the Brooks Range someday.

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4 hours ago, HemiHunter said:

I loved your report.  I have been to Alaska with my (now) wife for a week of fishing and nature sightseeing. It was incredible up there.  We never got much north of the Kenai Peninsula, though.  I would love to go see the vast emptiness of the Brooks Range someday.

The Brooks Range and the North Slope is pretty spectacular and I took over two hundred pictures on the trip. With the nice comments though I would share a few more that did not make the first cut.

 

View from the Super Cub east along the north face of the Brooks Range while looking for a place to land and go hiking.

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The Super Cub needs 300 feet of relatively even ground to operate when light. 

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Brown bears like to eat the ground squirrels called parka squirrels as they were used to make clothing by the natives in the past. This is where a bear dug for a squirrel.

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Caribou tracks in the exposure. 

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A few more of the fossils seen.

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Landed on the lower Canning River to go fishing with the Cub in the background.

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Canning River as it flows north out of the mountains. It looks flat from the air but the tundra has grass tussocks and is wet in places which is not good to land the airplane in.

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Thanks again for your comments! 

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Great report :) Those fossils are cool.. love the shells in the last part. Gotta hurry as our season comes to an end quick!!

 

Sorry your hunt was less then successful. My moose hunt starts tomorrow (now that I'm back home). 

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