Monday, January 29, 2018

Former UIS Professor, Author takes nature fans inside Alaska's Gates of the Arctic National Park

Joe Wilkins might be Gates of the Arctic’s biggest fan.

Now retired from the University of Illinois at Springfield, Wilkins’ numerous trips into the park and his love for the region serve as the framework for “Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration,” a 328-page account of the park, its environs and the natural world it encompasses.

At 8.4 million acres, Gates of the Arctic is the northernmost and second largest national park in the United States.

Between 2005 and 2017, Wilkins embarked on more than 50 excursions into the park and along its borders, sometimes alone, sometimes as a backcountry volunteer with the National Park Service.

His book chronicles his admiration for the park, as well as his encounters with wildlife, his observations of the environment and his respect for the land.

“I encourage people, whenever possible, to go out,” Wilkins said by phone from Tucson, Arizona. “I consider this to be the premiere wilderness of North America. It’s rugged, it’s free, it’s wild and remote. Go there or to anywhere in the Brooks Range.”

The book is the end product of his photography, note taking and reflections on the park and its offerings, whether it’s the Alaska Natives who call the park home, the grizzlies and caribou that roam the area or the aurora dancing overhead.

The book captures Wilkins’ ambition to get people to explore their world, something he calls the “wilderness next door.” “Visit the wilderness where you live,” he said. “It’s so important for people to participate and take part in and enjoy the wilderness.”

“Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration,” published by Brown Books Publishing Group, is available at national retailers now.

This article appeared in The Daily News-Miner in Fairbanks, Alaska on January 29, 2018.

Read the entire article online.