The List

Dec 1, 1998
Outside Magazine

60. Witness a Big-league Animal Migration.

60. Witness a Big-League Animal Migration

-Sandhill cranes:
Half a million return to Nebraska's Platte River each February and March.
-Wildebeests: Every July across the Masai Mara—a 200-square-mile plain along Kenya's border with Tanzania—millions move in from the Serengeti.
-Monarch butterflies: During the last half of October, unimaginable numbers cross toward Mexico through Texas's Kickapoo Caverns State Park.
-Polar bears: From mid-October to mid-November, sometimes hundreds gather in Wapusk National Park, along Hudson Bay, to gorge on seals.
61. Survive a Near-Miss
By Tad Friend
A few years back I rafted the stern Alsek River, emerging after a fortnight into Alaska's Dry Bay. That's local humor: It had been raining for 10 days. We were soaked and worn out. The DC-3 taking us back to Whitehorse had a plywood floor and an Amelia Earhart fragility, and the gravel runway ran 500 yards dead into the St. Elias. Midway into takeoff, we hit a big standing puddle, spun to the right, and swiped a willow thicket at 100 mph. There was a shocking tearing sound as we shied into the air. The end of the right wing was now a dangling flange trailing willow branches. "A little hedge-trimming," the flight attendant said, with idiotic pluck. Everyone else was silent as the plane fluttered low above snow-topped crags.

After a minute, the pilot sprinted back and stared mutely out my window at the wing, then bolted for the cockpit. Rain hammered at the steel casing. I began an intense study of the seat-back literature, a pamphlet about the Yukon's air-transport companies. A bad idea: Each had failed after all its planes had crashed. So I sat with my hands balled into fists, beaming out commands to the plane—prayers. The old machine droned on into endless gray, wavering, uncertain. At last, a kiss on the undercarriage: the runway in Whitehorse. We walked off gingerly and collected to stare at the broken wing. "Lucky," the pilot said, "goddamn lucky." He walked off with his shoulders hunched. It was sobering—and strangely exhilarating—to realize there was no merit whatsoever to our ultimate survival.

Tad Friend is an Outside contributing editor.

62. Be Able to Take Great Wildlife Photographs, and Then Resist the Urge to Bore People with Them

63. Dunk

64. Build a Canoe in Your Basement

Newfound Woodworks' cedar-strip kits cook up a vessel so fetching you may want to hang it over the mantel rather than float in it ($775 and up; 603-744-6872). If you'd prefer some coaching and camaraderie in the bargain, consider a week's workshop at the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, Maine ($500; 207-359-4651), the Sorbonne of advanced crafting.

65. Use Your Homemade Canoe on the Mackenzie River, from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean
With only one nonnative settlement the whole way, this is as close to Lewis and Clark as it gets. More than 1,100 miles long and often two miles broad, fast-flowing, with white-cliffed banks here, jagged Mackenzie Mountains muscling over the horizon there, days of surreal mist and afternoon showers, nights of nodding off on gravel bars, and welcoming committees of mosquitoes and grizzlies reminding you that your niche in the food chain is negotiable. Pack a fly rod: The Mackenzie's thick with lake trout, char, and grayling.