No one “deserves” wilderness, but we need it. Visiting Horsfeld is not about coming for the sake of a “fun” vacation. In fact, there will be parts of the experience in its immensity when the word “fun” does not come to mind. The trips do hold a rawness to them, whether it is the long days in the saddle, the rain that hits on an afternoon ride, or the discomfort of this unknown wild and quiet place.
I remember how restless I was the first month I came to Horsfeld. The long fall days as the cook left me often by myself while the men were out hunting. I wrestled that season with
walking alone around camp with images of bears looming in my thoughts. My femininity struggled in the midst of a hunting camp—something that I was never before immersed in or even agreed with. Horsfeld pushed me. The solitude of the country left me endowed with deep respect for the realness of the landscape and the reality that it has never been inhabitable year round. The winter is too harsh. Even historically the natives only used the area for obsidian extraction and moved on.
This tundra is for visiting, traveling through, hunting as it has been for hundreds of years. Perhaps, its impermanence as a settlement gives us more reason to come to learn and then leave with a new appreciation for the chance to shorten the segregation between man and nature. When we are out in the wilderness we are able to extract the selfish motives of our human existence and feel what it takes not just to survive in a place like this, but to thrive. I grew up in Colorado where mountains were always accessible for the purpose of recreation and there is a part of me that misses that thrill of mountain biking competitions in the summer, or ski races, but Alaska requires more. It requires patience with the time it takes to live within the mountains, the buckets of water, the almost frostbit toes, the solitude and deafening silence. These trips are not offered for the sake of a dollar, but rather because there is still value in sharing this place with others. Horsfeld is not just an adventure, but a wayside to stop and find the wholeness, self, and wildness that we were intended for.
Written by Jaia Koehler of Wrangell Outfitters at Horsfeld, AK.