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SELAWIK:Youth Travel Six Days and 500 Miles to Hot Springs
Alaska Region, April 25, 2012
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Middle and high school students, accompanied by elders, teachers, and community members, traveled by snowmachine more than 200 miles in each direction to reach Selawik Hot Springs.
Middle and high school students, accompanied by elders, teachers, and community members, traveled by snowmachine more than 200 miles in each direction to reach Selawik Hot Springs. - Photo Credit: Susan Georgette
The bathhouse at Selawik Hot Springs straddles a steaming pool that can be mixed with cold water from an adjacent stream.
The bathhouse at Selawik Hot Springs straddles a steaming pool that can be mixed with cold water from an adjacent stream. - Photo Credit: Susan Georgette

On a brilliant spring afternoon in mid-April, two dozen snowmachines paused at the crest of a hill south of the Kobuk River village of Shungnak. The travelers—24 middle and high school students and 16 adults—adjusted their gear, checked their sleds, and took in the sweeping views before setting off again on the 46-mile trail from Shungnak to the Selawik Hot Springs.

 

The trip had started a day earlier with 15 students and 11 adults in Kotzebue, almost 200 miles to the west. They had traveled under ideal weather conditions through two Iñupiaq villages, where additional students and elders had joined them. The group then continued on, stopping to set up camp and cook a quick meal before the late-night sunset.

After a second long day on the trail, the travelers arrived at the Selawik Hot Springs, where they pitched their tents again and marveled at the snow-free ground and steaming waters. Located at the far eastern edge of the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, the Hot Springs are tucked into a small timbered valley, protected from the notorious winds of the nearby tundra. Two aging cabins and a bathhouse provide rustic accommodations for sleeping, cooking, and soaking in the hot sulphur water. Modern conveniences—electricity, running water, TV, the Internet—are nowhere nearby. Local residents revel in the simple outdoor life that a trip to the Hot Springs offers.

Our group camped for three days at the Hot Springs exploring the hills and springs, repairing sleds and snowmachines, cutting and splitting firewood, hunting and butchering caribou, building survival shelters, cooking caribou soup, competing in outdoor games, cross-country skiing, and soaking in the mineral waters.

The trip was led by Raymond Woods, Iñupiaq Coordinator for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District in Kotzebue. Teachers, Iñupiaq instructors, elders, community members, and staff from the Selawik NWR also assisted in instruction, equipment maintenance, cooking, and supervision during the trip.

When it came time to leave, it took two long days of travel for Kotzebue residents to reach home. By the end of the trip, the students had learned important life lessons: how to travel 500 overland miles in winter conditions, how to handle the unexpected breakdowns and lost gear, and how to live outdoors for six days straight with a good attitude. Tanned faces and beaming smiles abounded at the trip’s conclusion!


Contact Info: Susan Georgette, 907-442-3799 ext 16, susan_georgette@fws.gov



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