Hulahula River Pingo

By Frank Keim

Cathy

We’re camped on the Hulahula River,

and after dinner

on a balmy night

five of us marched like caribou

single file

upriver

along a narrow animal trail 

to a tall pingo

sculpted long ago from ancient ice melt,

and there we sat

on its blunt rim,

peering into a black clearwater pond

below.

 

The mirror of the little lake 

shimmered in the slanting rays

of the Arctic sun,

and we wondered

about the Inupiat hunters

who had once sat here, too,

over so many hundreds of years,

watching and waiting for the caribou,

patiently hoping to see them

in their slow ambling and feeding

up or down the Hulahula Valley.

 

As they waited,

these Inupiat men bantered

and gossiped

and chipped flakes from a stone core

for their stone-tipped arrows and spears.

 

We sit here now,

holding one of those stone cores,

trying to imagine how it was for them

who lived lives so much harder than our own.

 

While they worked they surely heard,

as we do,

the timeless

bubbling songs

of Upland sandpipers

in tundra still brown from the long winter snows,

or the haunting winnows of the snipe overhead

as he undulates up and down

in the pellucid blue Arctic sky.

 

Maybe their children

playing nearby

picked the mountain avens

and tossed their white petals

into the wind,

watching them land

and float like little boats on the black water

toward the other shore.

 

Their shamans just as surely listened to the Ravens

to predict the movements of the caribou,

to know if luck was with them, 

or whether the people had to pick up stakes

and walk to the coast

to hunt for seals there.

 

Because for them meat was survival.

 

Meanwhile,

as they waited,

they probably ate the ancestors

of the parky squirrels now living on the rim

of this cratered pingo.

 

They also must have watched the Mew gulls

cruising above the river,

studying them for signs

the Arctic char

had arrived,

salivating at the thought of fresh fish

and full stomachs.

 

And much more

in our own wild imaginings

out here on this pingo crater

on the Hulahula River,

as we muse about the past,

near and far,

and speak about how it might be

in the future.

                                                           

Hulahula River

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


 

Hulahula River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge


Frank is an educator, nature writer and environmental activist. He worked for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia, as an anthropologist in Ecuador for four years, and as a secondary school teacher of Yup’ik Eskimos in Alaska’s Lower Yukon Delta for 21 years. He has published three poetry books,
Voices on the Wind (2011), Today I Caught Your Spirit (2014), and Trails Taken…so many still to take… (2018). In 2012 he published White Water Blue, Paddling and Trekking Alaska’s Wild Rivers and in 2020 he published Down Alaska's Wild Rivers. He lives north of Fairbanks, Alaska.

 

 

Editor's notes:

“Wilderness Experienced” is our shared stories and musings about recent experiences in our nation's Wildernesses. Stories focus on the virtues of Wilderness and/or challenges facing the National Wilderness Preservation System. We want to hear your story! Learn more and submit a story.

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Turning back is never easy, but sometimes the best...
 

Comments 35

Guest - Mary True on Thursday, 18 November 2021 10:50

Thank you! That was beautiful!

Thank you! That was beautiful!
Guest - Lizzie on Thursday, 18 November 2021 10:08

Simply beautiful!
Thank you for allowing me to join you on that pingo if only in my imagination.
I could feel all you saw. ?

Simply beautiful! Thank you for allowing me to join you on that pingo if only in my imagination. I could feel all you saw. ?
Guest - Diana Baker on Thursday, 18 November 2021 10:02

Beautifully written poem...you can hear, see, and almost smell this wilderness. Thank you!

Beautifully written poem...you can hear, see, and almost smell this wilderness. Thank you!
Guest - elizabeth lemert on Thursday, 18 November 2021 10:00

Beautiful poem. thank you.

Beautiful poem. thank you.
Guest - Barbara Aronowitz on Thursday, 18 November 2021 09:47

I appreciate your imagination connecting the past and present. I do worry about our futur

I appreciate your imagination connecting the past and present. I do worry about our futur
Guest - Rae Cecil on Thursday, 18 November 2021 09:43

How beautiful, I was there with you enjoying the thoughts.
Thank you ??

How beautiful, I was there with you enjoying the thoughts. Thank you ??
Guest - Cathy Dykema on Thursday, 18 November 2021 09:30

I really enjoyed your informational Blog
About the Hulahula Rivet Pingo & all its
Inhabitants!

I really enjoyed your informational Blog About the Hulahula Rivet Pingo & all its Inhabitants!
Guest - John E Lynch on Thursday, 18 November 2021 09:21

Your message is WAY TOO LONG to read on a cell phone. Not the 1st time I called to your attention.
For me, if you can’t compress the messages to several swipes on my phone, I will delete your site.

Your message is WAY TOO LONG to read on a cell phone. Not the 1st time I called to your attention. For me, if you can’t compress the messages to several swipes on my phone, I will delete your site.
Guest - Nancy Zebracki on Thursday, 18 November 2021 09:20

very moving

very moving
Guest - Diana on Thursday, 18 November 2021 09:17

Thank you. Beautiful.

Thank you. Beautiful.
Guest - Patricia B. Davenport on Thursday, 18 November 2021 08:45

I enjoyed the poem about the river and past explorers. I hope you do more writing and exploring. Keep us who are locked in the house in mind and help us travel with you.

I enjoyed the poem about the river and past explorers. I hope you do more writing and exploring. Keep us who are locked in the house in mind and help us travel with you.
Guest - Dennis A Werner on Thursday, 18 November 2021 08:44

So peaceful , wish I could go and see it .

So peaceful , wish I could go and see it .
Guest - Lydia VanDenBroek on Thursday, 18 November 2021 08:38

Wonderful poem! So insightful into what the ancients' lives must have been like. I'm so envious of what you have seen, where you have been and where you live. What a wonderful and full life!

Wonderful poem! So insightful into what the ancients' lives must have been like. I'm so envious of what you have seen, where you have been and where you live. What a wonderful and full life!
Guest - Mary on Thursday, 18 November 2021 07:52

I enjoyed reading Frank's poem. Wish I could be there to experience too.

I enjoyed reading Frank's poem. Wish I could be there to experience too.
Guest - Linda Holsapple on Thursday, 18 November 2021 07:41

Just incredibly beautiful writing.

:) Just incredibly beautiful writing.
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Tuesday, 30 November 2021

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