Where the Caribou Are Reindeer

An unrelenting craving for orange juice led me directly to the grocery store in Ammarnäs where I purchased an entire half gallon.  I quickly discovered that the hankering was satisfied after only a cup of the elixir but I wasn't going to waste any!  So I packed it out.

I also bought a little more of what I thought was a Swedish take on oatmeal as my supply was running low.  The whole trip I had been boiling the mixture and letting it sit in warm water to cook . . . but I am now pretty sure that I was boiling cereal meant to be eaten cold with milk.  The whole box was written in Swedish so I wasn't sure.  Oh well.  It was tasty boiled cereal!  

It had been drizzling off and on for several days and as I went south, the weather continued to deteriorate.  By the time I was in Hemavan, the weather had gone from light drizzle to driving rain to wet, heavy snow that soaked through everything.  The cold did make Hemavan a very welcoming sight.  

Kungsleden was a wonderful walk and a great way to see northern Sweden.   I wasn't sure what to expect.  The hike felt very safe and nice.  More like a vacation than any trail I have thru-hiked.  It was a very exciting way to be able to explore a country that I had never been to and I was so thankful that I could experience it that way.  

I couldn't help but think of Alaska though.  The vegetation was the same.  The hills and valleys were similar heights to those in the Brooks Range and well eroded.  The northern lights raged.  

The similarities were comforting sometimes.  It made me feel at home.  But the differences scared me.  The land was a much more controlled version of Alaska and Canada's Arctic.  Will the Brooks Range ever be this tame?  

Sweden's north was described to me as one of the last wildernesses in Europe but it wasn't wilderness.  Not big wilderness anyways.  There were fences, and a decent amount of foot traffic even that late in the fall.  The whole way was close to one road or another.  The animals are domesticated and gone.  There are reindeer wearing cowbells, controlled with high fences instead of wild caribou.  

 

I worry that this tame land is a potential future for Alaska's great wild places.  I worry that the Brooks Range will turn into something like this.  Criss-crossed by roads.  Cut up into so many pieces.  If it does, something staggering will be lost.  

Every time another road goes across Alaska, it becomes a little less and it's not okay.  There are so few truly wild places left.  

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