Deadhorse Camp

Deadhorse, Alaska is a town right outside the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field. It’s the only connection to the outside world most of the oil workers have while they’re on the North Slope. I worked at the hotel right outside of town that housed mostly seismic workers, equipment rental employees, any tourist traveling up the Dalton Highway for a tour of the oil field, and the few employees that work at the camp. A lot of the employees work there year-round, giving them a great rapport with the town. Here’s my 20 of Deadhorse Camp!

1. The first sight of Deadhorse was in the worst storm they had of the season while I climbed out of the plane.
2. My first night at Deadhorse filled my room with a small pile of snow, still being the worst weather I’ve ever been in.
3. Having complete freedom with what I was able to cook for the residence of Deadhorse Camp.
4. Getting off work and watching the entire series of Entourage and House with my fellow coworkers
5. Driving down the Dalton Highway a few miles just to watch the ice break up in the Sagavanirktok River.
6. Going to the Deadhorse “mall” to aimlessly walk around and finally settle on buying a pad of paper.
7. Driving into town on my day off to grab a hot coffee from the Prudhoe Bay Hotel’s coffee shop.
8. Walking aimlessly through the hotels the oil companies employ to house all their extra employees.
9. Watching the big oil rigs driving down the road, effectively cutting off any kind of transportation in the town.
10. Having documentary and smoothie night every Friday night.
11. Waking up early to go to the gym, mostly for something to do.
12. Watching the BBC Crew’s adventure in trying to film the Arctic Fox on the tundra over a couple week period.
13. Making a snow man in a blizzard with thick, windproof clothes on. Think of Ralph’s little brother in The Christmas Story. That’s what I looked like.
14. Getting geared up in my winter clothes to chase the Aurora Borealis around the camp to get a better view.
15. Getting yelled at by the equipment operators for wandering around the camp in the middle of the night to get a better view of the Aurora Borealis.
16. Trudging through mud and snow melt every night just to get to my room.
17. Becoming a master of adjusting between two or three space heaters in my room to keep it a cool F60 degrees in my room while it’s F-70 degrees outside.
18. Having to tell tourists driving 500 miles up the Dalton Highway that the tours to the Arctic Ocean don’t start for another few months.
19. Laughing at tourists that just drove 500 miles up the Dalton Highway to get a tour to the Arctic Ocean without checking if they’re open yet.
20. Meeting new people that will likely be life-long friends after spending 6 months on the Arctic Coast with them.

Coldfoot Camp

Coldfoot Camp was, and still is, a bustling rest stop about 200 miles north of Fairbanks. It’s really the only consistent service station on the Dalton Highway. It has also imprinted on me, driving my mind always back to the beautiful valley that Coldfoot Camp rests in at the base of the Brooks Mountain Range. Here’s my 20!

1. I walked through swampy trails after a big rain, thoroughly soaking my feet, my first day in camp.
2. I played with cute sled dog puppies almost daily.
3. I flew through the Gates of the Arctic in a very small Cherokee plane.
4. On more than one occasion, I was almost persuaded to swim in the Koyukuk River at bonfires.
5. I chased the Aurora Borealis down the Dalton Highway in a tour van just to get a better glimpse at it.
6. I learned how to play the Ukulele. Rather badly, but nonetheless.
7. I hitch-hiked with some nice and extremely vulgar truckers along the Dalton Highway.
8. I made an ass of myself by clumsily throwing a canned beverage over a fire to a fellow coworker, completely missing him, and inadvertently hitting another coworker on the head. (Sorry Justin. haha.)
9. I made my first (successful) marble rye bread.
10. The fact that my boss was always there whenever I needed him helped me achieve my goals.
11. Playing Corn Hole with my fellow coworkers and friends after a long week of work.
12. Meeting up with some friends I hadn’t seen in years since my first year in Alaska while in Fairbanks.
13. Sleeping in a hostel with my sleeping bag while eating bagel sandwiches cause I was too cheap to buy real food in Fairbanks.
14. Hiking up one of the mountains in the Brooks Range.
15. Stepping up my fitness game and actually running outside. That scenery, though…
16. Sitting at the bar, watching Top Gear, eating my breakfast, and talking to whomever was closing out the host position that night right before my early morning shift started at 2 AM.
17. All those nights spent watching movies as a Coldfoot Camp family.
18. Standing dumbfounded below the Aurora Borealis while it danced overhead like a mirage.
19. Drifting down the Koyukuk River while one of the guides artfully maneuvered our raft around the bends and corners of the river.
20. Getting some old gold miner’s life story while visiting the Wiseman museum.
21. Getting to cook with some of the nicest and most decent human beings I’ve ever worked with.
22. Playing terets in the coworker tent around a big table full of laughter.

I’ll probably keep adding more as I remember them. So more to come!

Hello Blog Family!

It’s been about 2 months since my last blog. Since then, I have worked an astronomical amount of hours in the kitchen in Coldfoot, Alaska. I have traveled more than 4,000 miles in planes and cars on my way back to Salt Lake City and road tripping to Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, Boise, Idaho Falls, St. George, and Vegas. I’ve met some new people, met up with old friends, and seen some amazing things along the way. I still have about 12,800 miles to go to get to Antarctica, but it’s a start.

When I last posted, it was mid-way through the season in Coldfoot and I was having a blast. I was still loving every minute I was there. Waking up to the most beautiful scenery in the world every morning doesn’t really compare to anything else. I was making great food with amazing people. This feeling of constant happiness stretched all the way to the end of the season. I made some really good friends in Coldfoot that I’ll probably try and visit where ever they end up. I also ended up fishing more, which was what my goal was by the end of the year. We only saw one single salmon in the surrounding rivers of the Koyukuk but we did fish for Arctic Char pretty extensively.

The only thing I didn’t end up doing was getting back up to Deadhorse when it wasn’t a desolate wasteland of bitter cold and snow. I was really hoping to see the massive herds of caribou that swarmed the area during the summer but the opportunity never did pan out. Oh well, maybe next year. I did get to see a few of my friends as they passed by for the end of the season, which was nice.

As the season in Coldfoot was winding down, more and more of our coworkers were heading south for the winter. This meant more and more work for the other workers, which meant the opportunity for more hours for everybody. Most of us welcomed this influx of overtime. Also, the other main cook that took the brunt of the responsibility for the buffet went on a three week vacation. That left me and the prep cook to cover the buffet, leaving me with the opportunity of working as many hours as I possibly could before I left. I took full advantage of this, which was nice. I was working fairly early and staying really late into the night to make my food as good as I possibly could. I think the extra work paid off because everybody seemed to love my food.

My last day in Coldfoot was a bittersweet one. I came to enjoy everybody’s company in the camp but it was hard for me to say goodbye. I started work at 10 AM and worked the buffet shift, as usual. There was some confusion with when I would be leaving, which left a hole in the schedule the day I had to leave. I switched the baker for his shift, which started at 2 AM so he could cover the hole in the schedule. That also meant that I had to work a 20 hour shift. As morning time came around, I slept for a couple hours and boarded a plane out of there. After 26 hours of traveling and sitting around in airports, I was finally back in Utah.

My time in Coldfoot was an amazing experience, probably one I’ll never forget. I hope I’ll have another opportunity to experience this again in the near future and be able to meet up with some friends that have gone their own way since then. Other than that, I’m off! Hope everyone is doing good and again, message me your address if you’d like me to write you.

Wiseman, Alaska and Anaktuvak Pass

Through the company I’ve been blessed to work with, there are certain perks that I get while I’m here. Perks like not having to pay for food, freedom to cook whatever I want, and living in the beautiful Brooks Range. Also, I get to go on any tour I want for free. Tours that people spend a lot of money on, I’d assume. Two of the tours that I’ve been on were to Wiseman, an old gold mining town, and a plane ride through the Gates of the Arctic to Anaktuvak Pass, an extremely remote village that’s on the edge of the Arctic National Park.

Wiseman, Alaska is 63 miles north of the Arctic Cirlcle, as the crazy horned sign says to the left. Back in the early 1900’s, it was a booming gold mining town with upwards of 300 people living there. Since then, it’s dwindled to about 10 residents as the gold mining moved deeper into the mountains. They live as close to a subsistence lifestyle as anyone can. There’s also a lot more buildings than I thought there would’ve been, let alone an airstrip.

This is one of the gardens in Wiseman that me and some of the other coworkers planted lettuce in. It’s what I can only assume is the furthest north garden in the United States. The mosquitos were so bad, I had to wear a mosquito net over my head to be comfortable while tilling the garden.

The next tour was the Anaktuvak Pass flight. By far the most beautiful flight I’ve ever been on. You fly in a small bush plane right through valleys and between mountains in the south-eastern part of the Gates of the Arctic National Park. This national park is a wilderness park, meaning there’s no interference from humans throughout the park. They don’t have park rangers, absolutely no trails in the mountains, and the only way to get into the park is by a small bush plane or walking. It’s the northern most national park and the second largest.  In fact, it’s the largest contiguous wilderness in the United States. It’s also exactly like it has been for thousands of years and it’s fabulous. The picture to the left is the actual Gates of the Arctic, aptly named by the avid wilderness activist that trekked this area in the late 1920’s. To the left of this picture is another toppling mountain that, paired with the mountain in the upper right, makes up the imaginary gate separated by the north fork of the Koyukuk River.

Flying right through the Gates of the Arctic and bam! Rainbow. The New Zealanders I was with got a huge kick out of this. We were pretty lucky to be flying through there at that moment.

The Anaktuvak Valley on the other side of the Gates of the Arctic. Pretty jaw-dropping scenery. Looking north, this is the point where the Brooks Range starts to slope down into what is known as the Arctic Tundra, showing the full scale of the continental divide. The town was nice and we got to see the Anaktuvak Pass museum, although I’ve never seen more mosquitos in my life. The New Zealanders were getting eaten alive. The pilot and I thought that they must taste pretty sweet to the mosquitos compared to us.

***Update on me***
I’ve had a great time here in the Arctic so far but I can start seeing the starting line for Antarctica. The paperwork has been a nightmare, as usual, and every little deterrent to get qualified for the ice has happened so far but I’m almost 100% ready. Send good tidings my way for good karma that nothing else happens. Also, they’ve asked if I’d be interested in staying on the ice over the winter at the South Pole station. It would be between me and 2 other guys for the main position and the others becoming alternates for both stations over the winter so we’ll see how that turns out. Also, somebody should write me! I’ve had a few people write me so far but it’s nice to hear from others through the mail! My only real excitement throughout the day is when I get mail. So either I spend loads of money on stupid things to get sent up here or you can write me. My bank account will probably thank you later. 🙂
Here’s the address:
KC Loosemore
PO Box 9041
9000 Dalton HWY
Coldfoot AK 99709
Thanks everyone!

Onwards, onto my 6th month in the Arctic.

As I notice that it’s the very start of June, I come close to my 5th month mark, onto my 6th month. A lot has changed for me in the last 5 months. I’m starting to realize that my passion in life is traveling to see all these beautiful places that all my friends from all over the world tell me about. Cooking isn’t my only marketable skill that I have to take me places anymore. But I’m also starting to realize that this life could be lonely if I let it. Meeting new people and becoming their friend just to leave a short time later can be rather disheartening, especially faced with the fact that some of them I’ll never see again. I have consistent people in my life that I’ll never lose contact with but they don’t have the luxury of abandoning their lives and jobs to go on these incredible journeys with me.

I’ve also tried to document some of my travels after realizing that these experiences aren’t just for me. With all my friends back home getting married and starting their own lives and my family going about their own lives, I feel like these adventures can help them see the world while still doing what they want to do. This helps me justify going to all these different places and not feeling bad about it. If I can help my family and friends see beauty through my experiences, I’m willing to spend the time to document it. It’s also interesting to think about how much change my life has had in the last 10 years. I bet my mother never thought her 13 year old nerdy, couch potato son from 10 years ago would have set foot in the Arctic or aspired to see beautiful, inspiring sights like I do now. Or I bet my grandma never thought that this bratty kid that refused to eat his ice cream unless he got to feed himself close to 18 years ago would be trying to open the world up to others. I hope to one day be able to take my mother to the places she only dreamed of seeing with her own eyes, such as Italy, as a thank you for always supporting me. I can only keep going forward right now. 🙂

My favorite part about this trip is that I’ve had a little bit of down time to really reflect on my life and work on my health. I’ve never been able to do that because ever since I was 14 I worked as much as possible to try and get ahead in life. Even in high school I’d work as late as 2 AM during the week and still wake up for school (mostly, haha). With the hotel being unexpectedly slower than previously believed this winter, I’ve earned enough money to keep myself satisfied that I’m not wasting my time but it’s been slow enough that I can really study how my body reacts to different things without any adverse effects on my job. With that said, the camp I’m at right now IS pretty slow right now. I’m excited to be able to travel down the Dalton Highway on Friday to reach my camp for the summer (Pictured Left). The other camp I’ll be working at will be significantly busier, from what I’ve heard. I’ll also have some help in cooking all the food. It’ll definitely be more up my alley for cooking with so much people passing through the camp every day.

The company I’ve been working for is a really good company and the management has been good to me so far. I don’t make a lot of requests for anything but if I do want a day off to take care of something or want to go on a tour through the Arctic, they’ve been great to set it all up for me. I recently visited a friend that I worked with during the winter that got another job somewhere else in town. He’s doing great and the hotel he’s working for is above and beyond nice for what you’d expect for the slope. It’s a consistent job that you could make a sizable career out of, with options of working 4 weeks on at the camp coupled with 2 weeks off to do whatever you want. I’d consider applying at other camps like this one if I hadn’t already set up Antarctica and had other plans. Maybe in the near future I’ll find a job like this in a place I’ve loved but for now, planning too far ahead could be detrimental.

I leave Coldfoot Camp sometime near the end of September. I’ll have been up here for a total of 8 1/2 months minus the 7 days that I spent in Utah getting my physical qualifications done. I’ll be in Utah another 2 weeks before I leave for New Zealand and, eventually, Antarctica. I found out where I’ll be cooking in the southern-most continent, also. It’s a landing zone for planes maintained by the US Air National Guard called Williams Field Airport (Pictured Upper Left). It supports 2 landing strips for planes equipped with skis and a small community known as “Willy Town”. It’s mostly ski equipped trailers that have been stationed there for the maintenance and daily functions of the air strip. I’ll be in the only small restaurant on the field, feeding around 120 on any given day. I would live in McMurdo and take a shuttle every day to work (The bus that shuttles people, Pictured Upper Right). It should be a great experience that’ll boost my resume even more.

This past week has been fantastic. I went on a tour of the oil fields and to the Arctic Ocean at the start of the week. I went with a really nice family from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that was traveling Alaska. The guide that drove us around was incredibly detailed in the descriptions of the oil field and ocean that we saw. I was surprised at how much I actually learned from the trip. Just a couple days ago, I got the opportunity to take a plane into Barrow, Alaska. There was an empty seat on one of the charter planes that was taking our guests into town for the day so I got asked if I wanted to go. Barrow, Alaska is the 2nd most populated city above the Arctic Circle and one of the northernmost cities in the world (Famous whale arches of Barrow, Pictured Left). I’ll probably do a separate blog post about these two adventures so keep an eye out. 🙂 As for now, I’ll start getting ready for my day and start packing for my next adventure into the unknown! Have a great day everyone!

Base Layers for All Weathers

I’ve spent countless hours scouring forums and reviews for all the different types of base layers that are out there these days. A base layer is essentially a next-to-skin layer of clothing that regulates your body temperature while in hot or cold weather. It’s an essential part of working outside in the arctic and living in a desert back home. I’ve always had to use under shirts and base layers all the way back to when I was a little kid but never put too much thought into it. within the last couple years, I’ve gotten into researching all the different brands and types since I started coming up to Alaska. This is because I needed to find something that will wick moisture and can dry quickly since I work in a 90F degree kitchen and outside was consistently below -60F degrees. If I walked outside with a damp undershirt on in the wind, it would almost freeze to my chest.  I’m reviewing the 5 best brands I’ve actually used in the past and their different products, listed in descending preferred order. Included is Under Armour, Icebreaker, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, and Ibex.

5. Under Armour
Under Armour is one of the premier performance apparel brands. It’s also one of the first to try and provide fitness apparel that wicks moisture, compresses your muscles so they stay warm enough not to strain or fatigue, and keeps you cool during a workout or practice. The company was started by a former college football player and coach that wanted a better material for himself while at games. He started it in his grandma’s basement and sold shirts out of his trunk for the first year. This led to the most branded performance apparel in the sports world, being the major sponsor of several events and superstar athletes. Under Armour has always been the most popular choice in the desert I grew up in for working out or hiking in extremely hot conditions. I’ve always saw several ads a day about them and dozens of people with their products on. This was probably due to the fact that the Utah Utes, Utah’s main nationally recognized college, was actually sponsored by them.

They have 3 main different types of base layer shirts you can choose from. The first one is the HeatGear shirts that they provide. It’s the lightest base layer I’ve worn that I’ve actually liked because the synthetic material it’s made out of really does compress your muscles. You’re not quite as sore the next day, making it an extremely valuable shirt to athletes. The second one is the ColdGear shirts. They’re the cold weather option for Under Armour. I prefer merino wool in cold conditions over this shirt but if you want a cheaper option, it’s still a great choice. The fabric it’s made of is a dual layered material with a hexagonal patterned thermo-conductive coating that acts as a heat generator that traps hot air while the fibers wick the moisture away. It’s a really interesting innovation and is completely safe. The last line of clothes is the all-season one. It’s the best of both lines mixed into one. A happy medium between the two makes it an ideal shirt. The wicking properties of the shirts are really good, being one of the more impressive materials in this category. The antimicrobial properties of Under Armour don’t really exist in this material, in my opinion. They say they have anti-odor systems built in but I’ve always smelled bad after a day or two of working out. If you’re training for sports or just using it to work out, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. You might want to think twice about this brand if you’re going on a week long hiking trip, though. The price is excellent compared to the other shirts. Expect to pay around $40-$60 for a good short sleeved shirt.

4. Icebreaker
This is a New Zealand company that has as strict standards to it’s processing of wool and treatment of animals as Ibex. They sell high-grade base layers for all types of weather and have different thicknesses of fibers that make each one a different weight for every situation. They have 4 different thicknesses in the base layer alone, 2 more than the base layers of Ibex. They’re also Zque Certified through New Zealand’s strict business regulations. The Icebreaker company has made international headlines with their innovative tracking system of materials called Baacode. They track each sheep’s wool from sheering all the way to the sale of the wool. They put a tracking number on each piece that corresponds to each and every sheep and what area that sheep came from. It shows that the company is dedicated to conserving the identity of the wool while keeping incredibly high standards of excellence for their farmers in New Zealand.

The price of the clothes through this company is on the higher end of all the other companies, with a short sleeve base layer going for $80. The outdoor department site usually has really good prices on this brand with prices as low as 35 percent off, making a good shirt around $50. Icebreaker is a company you should buy from if really high quality materials and mindful economical or business practices are important to you. I have a friend that swears by this company, making up a large majority of his closet and I don’t blame him. I own a pair of Icebreaker base layer bottoms and they’re just as good as any Ibex items I own. This company would’ve been my top choice if they weren’t slightly more expensive with regular prices than the rest of these companies, which is why it’s rated fourth. Either way, you’ll love anything you get from this place.

3. Outdoor Research
Outdoor Research is an American company that is deeply rooted in the innovation of mountaineering for the last 30 years. They’re the first ones to figure out a way to keep water thawed out on cold expeditions by developing an insulated parka canister for water bottles. They were also the first company that developed soft shell gloves in North America. The man that started it all, Ron Gregg, died in early 2003 testing new products for his company on a mountain side by an avalanche. The company is still on the cutting edge of the industry. Their Torque shirt line is the best synthetic I’ve used. The material and technology are from Polartec Power Dry fabrics. These fabrics are used in a lot of high grade synthetic brands and are made up of 2 layers. The layer closest to the skin are made up of thicker fibers that pull moisture away from the skin and the much thinner fibers on the outside spread the water over a larger surface area. This makes the moisture evaporate twice as fast.

It really does work just as well as wool and is actually a better choice in really wet conditions. While wool absorbs 35 percent of it’s weight in heat and water, this fabric disperses and sheds the water without retaining hardly any of it. Though the wicking properties do slightly exceed merino wool, the odor retention is much, much higher. I’ve found that these shirts can last a day or two camping or running without being washed before people start thinking you’re an unkept pig. Compare that to any merino wool that really just needs to be put in the sun. This effectively gets rid of any odor through it’s antimicrobial properties. You basically have to decide when going on your week long hiking trip if you wanna carry 4 of these shirts with the assurance that you’ll be dry quicker or 2 merino wool shirts with the assurance you won’t make yourself nauseated by your own stench. Synthetic material isn’t quite as nice of a feeling on your skin as merino wool is but with the Torque shirt line through Outdoor Research, they take great care with making the shirt feel as seem-less as possible so you don’t have too much irritation. You can pick up one of these shirts for $30 to $40 on sale.

2. Patagonia Capilene:
Patagonia is by far the most widely distributed and popular brands among the outdoor sports communities. Most everyone I know that rock climbs, alpine climbs, skis, or treks through Utah wears Patagonia equipment in the winter months. It’s also one of the most avid conservationist companies I know of. It’s unbelievable how much care they take in making sure certain aspects of the environment are looked after, even with them being a much larger business. The company was started by Tvon Chouinard, an American born in Maine that grew up in the Yosemite mountains of California. He’s been the leading expert in alpine climbing and mountain climbing for the last 40 years, revolutionizing the industry several times. He also started Black Diamond Equipment (formerly Chouinard Equipment, Ltd.), a company that manufactures skiing, climbing, and mountain sport equipment. He’s no longer involved with the company after bankruptcy in 1989. His employees bought up the assets and moved everything to Salt Lake City, Utah, making it the premier equipment manufacturer.

The dedication of Patagonia to quality has always astounded me. It’s no surprise its’ base layers are just as incredible. They have 2 main categories of base layers, the merino wool line and the Capilene line. The merino wool line is a blend of high quality merino wool from the grasslands of Patagonia and their patented blend of polyester called Capilene. With 3 different thickness variations, the wool content varies from 65% to 80%. They feel that by mixing the wool with their Capilene fibers, it helps bring both material’s best foot forward. It keeps odors at bay while wicking moisture and evaporating it before the wool can absorb too much. I’ve never actually used this shirt but it’s probably going to be the next line of shirts I end up buying for my trip to Antarctica. The shirts I have used from Patagonia’s base layer line is the full synthetic Capilene brand. It’s made from recycled polyester fabrics and blended into an incredible fabric that will shed sweat and keep you dry. The higher numbered Capilene shirts take advantage of 100% Polartec Power Dry material and Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency material to help with wicking. I have seen reviews of the thinnest shirt feeling clammy on your skin when completely drenched in sweat when in a humid environment but I haven’t had that issue, as I’m usually in drier climates. The odor control on this shirt is a lot better than most other synthetic shirts out there and the thinnest Capilene shirt gives you an incredible 50+UPF rating to block out the UV rays from the sun. The merino wool shirt prices are comparable to Ibex and Icebreaker shirts, running around $80-$100 retail and $60 on sale. The Capilene shirts will give you a much different price range, from $35-$120 depending on the thickness you’re looking for. You can get a really good deal on most of the Capilene categories on sale at around $40-$60.

1. Ibex Woolies
My aunt recently told me about a fantastic store in Ogden, Utah on 30th street. It’s called Alpine Sports and they carry these base layers along with knowledgeable staff that really do their homework on the gear they carry. When I was searching for higher-grade gloves to buy that could hold up for a couple years, I was also trying to keep an eye out for some really good base layers that would last more than a year. The lady that helped me raved about the Ibex brand and it’s natural wicking properties. Wicking moisture is a phenomenon where materials actually push water through their fibers away from your skin, keeping you dry. With wool, it’s technically not wicking the moisture away. It absorbs a large amount of it (up to 35 percent of it’s weight) and evaporates it. This helps with heat retention. Ibex is made from merino wool shorn from sheep in New Zealand, as is most high-grade merino wool products. The reason New Zealand merino wool is so prized is because the sheep in New Zealand encounter incredible extremes of weather all year round. This naturally conditions the wool to have antimicrobial properties (it doesn’t retain smells and kills bacteria), naturally wicks moisture away from your body by absorbing water and evaporating it, and the fibers are so thin that it doesn’t irritate your skin, giving it an incredibly soft feel on your skin. It also has natural sun protection abilities that are equivalent to 30SPF.

The difference with Ibex clothing is that they only buy Zque Certified wool, which ensures that every single piece that they sell is sustainable in every aspect of the environment and is 100 percent biodegradable, fire-retardant, and naturally regulates the temperature on your body. It does this by retaining heat and discharging it with water vapor if it’s hot or converting it back to your body. It’s one of the only natural fibers on earth that stays warm even if it’s wet. Because the wool is as sustainable as this, it takes quite a while to make after the wool is shorn from the animal. On average, it takes 9-12 months to make a garment from start to finish. With that being said, Ibex is also one of the more expensive brands you can get for your money. You can usually get them for 30-40 percent off if you’re willing to wait for them to go on sale with the new year’s stock coming in. I buy my undershirts from them at this time for pretty cheap, comparatively speaking. The full price of a base layer short sleeve shirt is usually around $75-$85 but I usually wait until they drop below $55 to even consider it. I own some glove liners that are Ibex, as well. These are nice when you’re driving or need an extra layer on when you have to take your gloves off for something.

In closing:
5. Buy Under Armour if you’re looking for some really solid work out clothes or some cheaper base layers. Remember, they won’t hold up to stench very well but you get what you pay for, I guess.
4. Buy Icebreaker if you want high-grade merino wool products and you don’t mind the price. If you can find a good sale price on them, it’s a definite steal.
3. Buy the Outdoor Research base layers if you want a good balance of synthetic fibers to keep you dry in wet conditions for a reasonable price. Probably the best bargain for your buck and an amazing synthetic shirt.
2. Buy Patagonia’s Capilene brand if you are looking for a high quality synthetic layer that will last longer than most other synthetics. They give you the most variety of thicknesses and fabrics to choose from. Not my absolute favorite synthetic shirt but the variety and design of the shirt makes it a better choice for most.
1. Buy Ibex if you want one of the best merino wool products on the market. The attention to detail with the seams for backpacking is fantastic. Also, it feels much more natural on your skin than any synthetic product. The price is as competitive as the other companies mentioned and if you can get it on sale, it’s my top choice for any base layer you’re looking for.

If you want me to review a type of gear you think I know a lot about, post in the comments below. I’ll be in the Brooks Range in a few weeks, which I’m excited about. I’ll be hiking a lot if I can find people to go with so I’ll be having plenty of fun trying out new gear. I hope this helped in your search!

The Great Bird Migration of Prudhoe Bay

A few years back, I got involved in bird watching in South East Alaska through some friends. One of them was a marine biologist. That’s a pretty credible background in birding as any I could think of. The other was her husband. Just as valid credibility I’d say. I’d go fishing with these two quite often and have heard the biologist banter about the sea birds and their different breeds on more than one occasion. Ever since I was little, the eagle has always been my favorite animal so to hear these two talk about the birds of Alaska was incredibly interesting to me. I then saw a movie about a year later about traveling the country in search of spectacular species of birds. It was titled The Big Year. It had Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson (among other prominent actors) and it had beautiful scenes of the Pacific North-West and Alaska in it (Pictured Left). What more could you ask for? Ever since then, my interest in the amazing species of birds where ever I’m at has been close to the forefront in my mind.

In Utah, I was always spoiled with an abundant amount of climates and regions that facilitate hundreds of species of birds. I also grew up going to the Tracy Aviary, an 8 acre bird sanctuary in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah. Some of my fondest memories as a child was watching the Birds of Prey Show, which featured different hawks, eagles, and owls. This sparked my love for bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, different types of owls, and peregrine falcons, among other birds. There are hundreds of species of birds in Utah alone so when I found out Prudhoe Bay was a huge migratory stopping point in North America for sea birds and many other species, I was elated. I also found out that I wasn’t going to be spending my summer up here in Prudhoe Bay, making me worried I wouldn’t be able to see this spectacle. Having not seen literally any other living thing in the arctic besides an occasional flash of a tail from an arctic fox, I felt even more defeated at the prospect of seeing this migration.

As I just got back from my week long vacation in Utah, I expected the usual vast stretch of white, flat land with just freezing snow covering it. When I got off the plane to come back to the lodge, however, I noticed an amazing spectacle had happened all across the tundra while I was away. As I walked to the van that picked me up, I noticed the road was actual gravel. As I drove down the road, I noticed large, snowy caps of drift snow reduced to puddles along the flat expanses. The biggest differences I noticed was the fact that I actually saw water outside. To explain a little, the tundra is essentially a giant bowl of freezing cold wind that turns any sign of water into stoney ice in an instant, making most living things too vulnerable to live here. I walked outside once with a wet shirt from the washing machine needing to be dried and in the few seconds I was outside, it turned into a plank-ice shirt. I could have probably picked it up and smacked someone over the head with it. So for me to see the drastic transformation the tundra took on through the Sagavanirktok river and multiple lakes scattered around town in a week was shocking.

This also gave me hope. Hope that I would indeed see the great migration after all. My new found hope was sparked by the tundra’s drastic change. It was later ignited by an account of a single, beautiful snowy owl perched on top of our hotel sign and HUGE ravens scaring me half to death while I walked down our icy steps from our main facility. All this, coupled by the fact that the tundra has turned into a giant slush puddle of doom makes me pretty excited that I’ve been extended to the end of the month for my stay in Prudhoe Bay. The migration of caribou (reindeer, essentially), musk ox, copious amounts of birds, and bears all are coming within the next month, leaving me with hope that I’ll see at least some of this. I found a few pictures of some of the birds that are indigenous to this area during migration. Snowy owl (Pictured Left), King Eider (Bottom Right), and Spectacled Eider (Bottom Left) are just a few of the species that I’m hoping to see.

***An update on me, I just got back from a week long “vacation” at my home town in Utah. It was packed full of family, friends, medical testing I needed done for Antarctica, and fun! Haha. I saw The Amazing Spiderman 2 (which I loved, obviously), I went on a hike through the mountains close to my house with some friends, I saw most of the family I wanted to see while home (sorry Jake and Uncle Steve), and I got to spend half a day in Salt Lake City walking around with two of my favorite girls (besides my momma, haha), my sister and Kimmy. I only had enough time to see a few friends though, sadly. Unfortunately, most of my time was spent getting my medical evaluations done for Antarctica. When I come home in September, I’ll have a little more time to spend traveling around to all the people I really miss before I’m pushed off to Antarctica. I’d like to go up to Bear Lake some time in September and spend some time eating raspberries and relaxing on the lake.

My time in the arctic has been fantastic and I’ve loved every minute of it but I’m also excited to get back to an area that has mountains around it. The landscape here is as flat as can be for miles all around me and I’m not used to that. Also, I’m going to a camp that has no cell service and limited internet in about 3 weeks so I’ll try to keep up on writing in this. I may have to keep a digital journal of things I want to write about and post out of that every week. If you would like to write me letters while I’m there, I’ll gladly give you the address if you ask. It would be nice to hear from familiar people while I’m in the middle of nowhere. Here are a few pictures from my trip to Utah. They are pictures from my hike with my friends’ Kevin and Brooke and a picture of the cutest little girl on the planet, my niece Ava. Thank you to everyone that’s supported me through all of this and has helped me throughout my journey. Until next time!

Human Planet BBC Film Crew/Arctic Fox

A couple weeks back there was a film crew from BBC shooting a documentary about the seasons of Alaska. They were 3 of the nicest and most passionate people I’ve ever met. The two producers were Tuppence and Toby and they had help from their driver and equipment tech guy. They came to our hotel to film arctic foxes, which is unbelievably awesome to me. I love foxes and hope to own one as a pet some day. A lot of people think I’m crazy considering they’re nocturnal but I stay up considerably late anyway. They’re actually a relative of the dog family.

When the film crew first got to camp, they posted flyers all over the hotel detailing their stay at the lodge and if anyone knew any information about where they could find an arctic fox. The first couple days were uneventful as they scoured Deadhorse and the surrounding area for information. They were thoroughly impressed with our food, though. Every single meal they continuously raved about how good they thought our food was. It really helped everyone step up their game and provide the best customer service. The staff and I even ended up watching Human Planet, which the producers that were filming the fox were directly responsible for. They even won an Emmy for their role in it.

4 days after they got here and still no sign of a fox, the night dishwasher had an interesting encounter with one. While the BBC Crew was out searching, our dishwasher, Dave, went to take out the garbage. As he did so, an arctic fox wandered up to him and just sat right in front of the dumpster. The fox just sniffed the air and completely ignored Dave. As Dave moved closer to it so he could dump his garbage, the fox was completely unfazed. We both speculated that the foxes around here are probably used to human beings, most likely associating them with food or as no threat at all. Even though you shouldn’t try to pet them because of the high chance of rabies, it’s still nice to know that the arctic foxes around here aren’t threatened by humans.

The climate in the Arctic is so severe that the physiology of this particular fox has adapted so much that it’s body anatomy is one of the best suited for this climate. It can withstand -58 Fahrenheit in relative comfort without using any metabolic warmth. The feet are covered in fur and are stout. The ears are rounded and closer to the head than other foxes. The muzzle is relatively short as to lessen the amount of heat loss on the body. It’s tail is used for balance and is used for warmth, mostly like a blanket. The tail is actually about 35 percent of the foxes entire length, making it an extremely important part of the animal.

It’s a scavenger that feeds off the remains of polar bear and wolf kills, an avid hunter that kills hares and birds, and also eats vegetables when they can be found. It can even hide food in it’s den to store for winter. The fur on an arctic fox is a thick, oily white coat that beads off water and sheds to a variety of different colors during the warmer months. As for offspring, they have the largest litter recorded by a mammal. Averaging 11 baby foxes in one litter, the fox can give birth every spring around May through April. The mother and father both stay with the pups until fall, feeding them until they can be self-sufficient. Now, in Alaska you can’t own any type of fox as a pet. It’s completely illegal. But in my home state of Utah, you can own any variety of Vulpes Vulpes (Red Fox) which the arctic fox is a part of. You have to make sure they can stay cool, though. From all the research I’ve done on them, they are basically similar to a house cat in mannerisms but completely different from any animal mentalities. as long as you have a large enough pen for them, they have plenty of hiding places, and you make sure they have a lot of things to do, they’re great pets.

Now that you know about the fox, it’s a pretty monumental task that the BBC crew set out for considering the fox is always on the move and tends to hide a lot. Every single day someone would ask them if they found the elusive fox but the answer was always no. They got video of a red fox about a week and half in but every other day was wasted traveling up and down the highway looking for leads on sightings of the arctic fox. This went all the way to the very last day of their trip. They finally ended up with the footage they came for, going all the way to the very last hours of possible filming time to catch these beautiful animals on film. They were greeted by our staff with triumphant praise, which I felt that it showed how enthralled into their project we all were.

The amount of energy it took them to try and get hours of film for a supposed 3 to 4 minute clip in their documentary was astounding to me. It gave me an incredible respect for the people that do this. I grew up watching documentaries with my 2 brothers all the time on the History Channel or Discovery Channel. In fact, those kind of documentaries were the reason I decided to travel the world in search of these amazing places. You can imagine how engrossed the staff and I got when watching one of these films taking place. If you ever get a chance, watch the Human Planet documentary mini-series. Specifically, the desert and grasslands episode since those are the ones these incredible people I got the privilege to meet were involved with. You can thank me later for showing you an amazing film. 🙂

**An update on me, I come home in about 2 weeks. Even though it’s only for a week, I’m still excited 🙂 It’s official that I’ll be spending the 4 months of my summer near the Brooks Range in Alaska at the Coldfoot Camp. I’ve heard it’s beautiful and I’m hoping I can find some lakes or river to fly fish out of. I’m also going to have the opportunity to visit the other camp in the company I’m working with right now right on the Yukon river. It’ll be an amazing adventure since the Brooks Range along the Dalton Highway is one of the least inhabited places by humans on earth. The only thing I’m a little hesitant about is that I’ll be sleeping in a large canvased tin building (it’s a glorified tent, basically) but the pictures that I’ve seen of them show that they’re quite large so that’s good. I’ll be out of phone range which isn’t that big of a deal to me. They have wired phones I can call out on. I’ll also have access to internet so I can keep everyone updated on life in the arctic still. Mount Sukapak is a beautiful mountain just north of where I’ll be that I hope to visit while I’m there. That’s all for now 🙂 Leave a comment below if you have a question or suggestion on what I should write about next!

Week 10 in the Arctic

This is my 10th week up in Prudhoe Bay just outside of Deadhorse. It’s a thrilling, yet somber time as well. As I approach my 3 month mark, I know I’ll be back home for a week at the start of May. It seems I just got here. The night was pitch black with howling winds upwards of 30 miles an hour and temperatures below -70 at times. Piles of snow inside my door from fierce gusts blasting my door all night long. Meeting new people who I was to work with, then seeing those people leave the Arctic back to their lives elsewhere after just a few short weeks of getting to know them. Seeing new, starry-eyed people come to Alaska to work with me, one by one, until our winter team was fully assembled. Making friends with these new people and being amazed at how well we worked together.

I’ve also made friends with the work crews that come up. All of them have been nice and receptive of my food, which I appreciate. I’ve connected with them all and know most by their first name. If you know me at all, you’d know how great of a feat that is. I’m always sad to see some of them leave on their 3 week rotation but their permanent replacements end up showing their faces a few days later, which is nice. I’ve also become familiar with the area, making me excited for the summer. Even though my fate is uncertain if I’m staying at this particular camp or down in Cold Foot for the summer, it’s still nice to know my surroundings and the history of the area.

A light of uncertainty comes with me going home in a few weeks, too. As I miss my family very much, especially my mom and dad, I feel my time in Alaska has been too short to just reappear back into everybody’s lives. I don’t have a girlfriend that needs me and all my closest friends that I care about have girlfriends, wives, or kids that have always kept them busy. It’s strange to me that I can just show up for just a few days with just enough time for everyone I know to say hi and be on my way again. Albeit it’s rather important I go home for this small, diluted time for physical examinations or other tests they want to run on me for Antarctica, I’d just as much rather stay here where I can focus on making myself better, even healthier for my family back home.

With that said, it’ll be good to see my parents, siblings, and friends again. It’ll be nice to see my grandpa’s grave that passed away while I was up here. To see my grandma and give her my sympathies and apologies for not being able to make it back home for the funeral. Maybe I can convince some friends to take some time out of their busy lives to venture into the mountains or walk around Salt Lake City, reveling in humanity’s grasp on civilization in the valley around my home town one last time for the next 5 months that I’ll be in Alaska. We shall see.

For the last month of winter, my focus while I’m working up here will be squarely on making exceptional food while improving my techniques through repetition, intuitiveness, and studies. I’ll also be looking to lose some weight. I’m tired of being fatigued at the end of the night when I get off work with not much more energy for anything else. I’d like to be able to do physical labor without too much strain on my body and I can’t do that when I’m overweight. My goal is to lose 25 pounds by the time I go home, which is in about 5 weeks. 4 pounds a week is a reasonable goal considering I’ve lost 7 pounds since I started taking my health seriously. I think that’ll be attainable if I stay focused and keep changing my diet for the better. Wish me luck in that aspect 🙂

I’m hoping my new coworkers down in the middle of no-where at Coldfoot are as nice as the ones I’ve met so far up here. I also hope I’ll adjust to sleeping in a giant tent with a room mate in the middle of Alaska all summer long. I’ll be the lead dinner cook, from my understanding. Whatever that means. Cooking for 150 to 200 people is a far cry from what I’ve been doing in Prudhoe Bay so that’ll be nice. If there’s one thing I’ve learned the past 4 years working up north, there’s plenty of hours and money to be made in Alaska. You just have to look hard enough. If I do end up going down the Dalton Highway a few hundred miles, I won’t have phone service but I will have limited internet. I’m glad I’d at least have some way with connecting to the outside world.

But as for now, I sit in my chair in my room writing this blog and thinking about life. I’ve always been good at imagining where I want my life to take me, though it hardly ends up where I expected it to. As I stare into the night sky every night on my way to my room, I always wish those moments never pass. Even though they do, they’re always replaced by just as beautiful and memorable memories as before. Live life how you see it around you, not how the world sees you and you’ll always find yourself in the place you were always meant to be. Even if you didn’t necessarily know where it was going to lead. 🙂