We planned this trip ourselves, by using government topographic maps (available from the Canada Map Office, 615 Booth St., Ottawa K1A 0E9; and the Branch of Distribution, U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25286, Federal Center, Denver, Colo. 80225). Then we contacted local airlines, KAK Enterprises -- a tour operator -- and the Arctic Circle Hot Springs Resort directly to make final arrangements.
Cost for the 16-day canoe trip -- excluding transportation to Circle Hot Springs and the stay at the resort -- was about $1,000 per person, including air charters, canoe and kayak rentals, and food. We arranged van transportation from Fairbanks to Circle Hot Springs through KAK Enterprises, at $60 round trip per person. The resort's rates are $50 double per day.
Charter flights and arctic packages can be arranged through any of the following organizations:
* KAK Enterprises, 1215 Choctaw Rd., Fairbanks, Alaska 99705, (907) 488-2649. KAK specializes in small van tours to Circle Hot Springs from Fairbanks and can make other arrangements, such as trips to working gold mines, canoe rentals and river guides.
* Arctic Circle Hot Springs Resort, Central, Alaska 99703, (907) 520-5113.
* Harold's Air Service, 3806 University Ave., Fairbanks, Alaska 99701, (907) 456-4411.
* Sunshine Copters, General Delivery, Circle, Alaska 99733, (907) 773-1219.
* Arctic Circle Air Service, P.O. Box 22, Fort Yukon, Yukon Territory, Canada 99740, (907) 662-2320.
* Wright Air Service, International Airport, East Side, Fairbanks, Alaska 99707, (907) 456-5502.
GETTING THERE: From Washington, Western, American and United airlines fly to Fairbanks. Both Western and American offer Supersaver round-trip fares of $481. Tickets must be purchased 30 days in advance. With Western you must travel on Tuesday or Wednesday and stay no longer than 21 days, and with American you must stay one Saturday night.
WHEN TO GO: July is the warmest month on the Porcupine River, although the weather is pleasant from mid-June to mid-August.
WHAT TO TAKE: As our experience with the grizzly proved, it is wise to take along a 12-gauge shotgun, with about 20 rounds of ammunition. Other items to add to your usual camping gear are mosquito coils and head nets. (Although we were not bothered by bugs either on the Yukon or the Porcupine Rivers, they can be troublesome.) Be sure to take fishing gear for the salmon and grayling. And emergency flares are a must.
Our own little comforts included small pillows to sit on while paddling and to use underhead while napping, a tea kettle to keep simmering over the campfire and plenty of condiments, such as mayonnaise in tubes and lots of spices.
In Fairbanks there is a number of sporting equipment stores where you can purchase both new and used gear to fill out your kit. There are also supermarkets with all the fresh foods you might want, and what you forget you can buy in the general store at Arctic Circle Hot Springs Resort.
HEALTH: You should be in fairly good shape and able to paddle moderately for five to seven hours a day, with energy left over to set up camp in the evening. It's essential to have canoeing and camping experience.