Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the dad who undertook a great Alaskan adventure with his 15-year-old daughter

Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a vast and unforgiving region, home to only a small number of people. It is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States and features freezing rivers that twist and bend between enormous mountain passes.

The Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is over 19,000,000.
The Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is over 19,000,000. Image by Hillerbrand/USFWS / CC BY 2.0

It was here that author Jim Campbell first took his 15-year-old daughter Aidan on a grand adventure into the remote tundra in the summer of 2013, 80 miles from the nearest neighbour and 300 miles from the closest hospital.

Father and Daughter Jim and Aidan Campbell trek through the Alaskan wilderness.
Father and Daughter Jim and Aidan Campbell trek through the Alaskan wilderness. Image by James Campbell

Jim’s cousin Heimo, the subject of his first book, “The Final Frontiersman” had asked the author to help him build a cabin in the area. Jim felt that it was the right time to include his daughter Aiden, thinking that it may help her learn decisiveness, independence and some valuable life skills. They spent the next two months on the project.

The unforgiving wild proved to be challenging, with freezing temperatures and an array of wildlife to be cautious of.
The unforgiving wild proved to be challenging, with freezing temperatures and an array of wildlife to be cautious of. Image by Jim Campbell

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the outdoors, and so has Aidan, across the world. I’ve done other treks across Alaska, sailed with the world’s last navigators through Micronesia, and re-discovered a WWII trail across the Papua New Guinea Papuan Peninsula. However, this trip was hard in so many unexpected ways. From swarming bugs of the summer, the grizzly and polar bears, the river and its rapids, to the brutal cold of winter, the lack of light and the isolation. What made it even harder was my burden of responsibility for making sure my daughter was safe. We trained hard for all these trips, but much can go wrong in the wilderness,” Jim told Lonely Planet News.

The trip proved to be a successful bonding exercise for the Jim and Aidan.
The trip proved to be a successful bonding exercise for the Jim and Aidan.

Jim said that as well as bonding, the two learned valuable lessons from each other during the trip. “I learned that my daughter was capable of even more courage, composure, toughness, and industriousness than I ever thought. My biggest challenge was learning to let go and to trust her and have faith in her abilities. From me, my daughter learned basic wilderness skills necessary for any adventure. I hope she also learned that in the wilderness one has to be adaptable and one has to be mentally and emotionally prepared for things not going as planned.”

Aidan battles the freezing cold temperatures.
Aidan battles the freezing cold temperatures. Image by Jim Campbell

In total, the pair made three trips to the region over the following year, spending months in the Alaskan wild. It has been documented in Jim’s new book called, “Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an unforgettable journey into the Alaskan Wild”.