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A friend and I just camped out at the Arctic Circle, about 200 miles north of where we live in Fairbanks.

 

A dashed line on the map went right through our campsite. That line, the Arctic Circle, traces the northern hairline of the globe, at about 66 degrees north latitude. That means that when sleeping on the circle we were much closer to the North Pole (at 90 degrees latitude and 1,600 miles north) than to Ecuador (0 degrees latitude and 5,700 miles south). 

 

Our campsite view showed the importance of aspect — the compass direction that a slope faces — here in the far north. Behind us, the south-facing slope taking a direct hit from the sun was full of birch and spruce trees, just like our boreal forest home in Fairbanks. At the other extreme, the north-facing slope in front of us was open, with a few islands of trees but mostly knee-high tundra plants as far as we could see.

 

Because we were there near the fall… read more

When I left my sister’s house in Brooklyn yesterday afternoon, I was 4,200 miles from my home. That’s a long way, but I slept in my Fairbanks bed before the next sunrise.

Enabling this incredible time travel are modern jet aircraft like the Boeing 737-700, which carried me and 125 others on the first leg of my journey, from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

I settled into my window seat to savor an experience I sometimes take for granted — the traverse of our country in one day.

As the plane roared off the busy runway, we looped over the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean. We arced westward until the pilot had the nose pointed toward the other coast.

In minutes, we were over northern Pennsylvania, the second of ten states and one province (Ontario) we would hurdle during the next 5 1/2 hours.

We soon climbed to smooth air about six miles high. The pilot chose this cruising altitude because… read more