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Survival Training Leads to Book on Arctic Wilderness Exploration


Joe Wilkins once lived a double life. By day, he was a quiet professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. But when he was away from teaching, he led another, more dangerous life. During his days in the Air Force in the 1960s, he was trained in arctic wilderness survival in Alaska. For decades, he used that training to explore, and now document, the beauty and danger he experienced.

His new book is the culmination of those travels. It’s called “Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration.”

  • (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

    (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

  • (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

    (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

  • (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

    (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

  • (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

    (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

  • (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

    (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

  • (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

    (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

  • (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

    (Courtesy of Joe Wilkins)

Wilkins, the very “Indiana Jones”-like author, is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “Gates of the Arctic National Park” documents his explorations in Alaska between 2005 and 2017.

And a side note: All net proceeds from the book’s sale will benefit veterans in need through the Joe Wilkins Veterans Scholarship Fund at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Below, excerpts from “Gates of the Arctic National Park: Twelve Years of Wilderness Exploration.”

“Where all roads end, the real magnificence of the arctic wilderness commences and no roads reach Gates of the Arctic National Park.”

“This is a land of multiple complexities and amazing contrasts. Nowhere else in North America does it get darker, colder, or more wild.”

“Hearing the nearby growl of a grizzly bear, the howl of a wolf, the snarl of a wolverine, or the screech of a lynx during the night while sleeping in a tiny tent pitched high in the mountains, far out on the tundra, or deep in the boreal forest can evoke primal memories of ancient threats in addition to the presence of actual and current dangers lurking in the darkness.”

“A person’s view of the harsh world ‘out there’ is dominated by a marvelously big sky, unpredictable weather, rugged mountains, wild animals, challenging rivers, and frequently intimidating amounts of snow and ice.”


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