Return from the wilderness |

Return from the wilderness

A month in the Arctic was described as “brutal” at times for local adventurer and photographer Eli Rush, who recently returned to Nevada County with a full beard and more than 1,000 images to develop.

Rush is thinner after subsisting on a diet of lentils, rice and the occasional fish while pushing his body to the limits of physical exertion. Already, Rush is eager to return to the land of the midnight sun – the Brooks Range, tundra, grizzlies and an indescribable grand wildness.

“I knew I was going to the most beautiful place on earth. It was even more beautiful then that,” Rush said.

On Aug. 2, Rush and friend Ed Hensley hopped onto a bush plane from the small town of Cold Foot, Alaska and flew 250 miles across the Brooks Range to a remote location without roads or trails in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Compared to the Sierra Nevada, the “unbelievable” Brooks Range seemed “so random, so dynamic,” Rush said.

“It took me a couple of days to settle down and figure out what to photograph,” Rush said.

So they photographed everything. There was no plan, other than to survive and photograph the vast landscape.

They were captured by the beauty of the first camp. It took the men nine to 10 days to ferry their 1,200 pounds of gear and push off on a 40-mile river trip on the Marsh Fork.

“By the time we set off on the river, it felt like this place was where we lived,” said Rush, who has paddled thousands of miles in remote regions of the Amazon and the Yukon territories. This was Hensley’s first paddling trip.

Meanwhile, the river was dropping as summer drew to an end.

The first day on the river was grueling, and Hensley and Rush spent six hours dragging their kayaks over gravel bars.

“Our boats were just loaded down. The river was just too shallow to paddle, so we had to get them out and pull them,” Rush recalled.

“At first it was just kind of the hearty thing to do. After the cold drizzle started, it began to take it’s toll,” Rush said. They made camp at 11:30 p.m.

The beauty of the sometimes harsh landscape triumphed over aching bones.

“The fatigue just rated so low in all of that, it didn’t seem to count.”

In coming months, Rush plans to host a slide show illustrating his trip in hopes of raising awareness about the delicate ecosystem threatened by expansive oil drilling.

To view photographs and blogs of their journey, visit http://


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail

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