Minefield in Alaska…WTF?

denali alaska minefield

I have been around UXOs (unexploded objects) in both Southeast Asia and the Army and never quite felt comfortable around them. No wonder. Imagine an object, built only for one reason only: to kill or maim another person. Devices with mechanical brains that have been rusting away outside since the 1960s. Snow had depressed the trigger some, as well as probably some of Alaska’s many earthquakes, and no doubt the constant freezing and thawing.

Now imagine if those objects were scattered around just a few dozen meters from where you were camping — where kids were playing and people were walking to go fishing!

That is exactly what we found when we pulled into a campground trying to find access to the Tangle River in Alaska for some fishing. We parked the car and began down the clearly marked trail until we came upon the new sign above. I could barely believe my eyes. Three mines had been found in the area only one week before we came! The wording on the sign was “we think we found them all, but just in case — enter at your own risk and this is what to do when you find a UXO.”

I have no idea why there would be mines in the middle of Alaska where no war was fought, and nowhere near an army base. But there were mines. We did the only proper thing that two addicted sportsmen should do: we continued forward to the river through the knee-high grass and hoped for the best!

I did, however, keep an eye on the trail, just as I did while trekking in Cambodia where mines are still scattered like seeds.

At the river, we had no luck fishing, so dad stopped to pan for gold just for fun. Alaska is filled with gold, but the problem is finding enough of the little specs of dust to use chemicals to make it solid. Gold panning is actually out of season right now, because they are afraid that people will scoop up the salmon eggs while sifting for it. No danger of that — we had no luck finding salmon or gold!

Panning for gold in Alaska

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