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These are just some of the many edible plants found in the northlands, and I haven’t even included berries (the strawberry and blueberry among them) and mushrooms (which require much caution, though practically all that grow in the north are edible). It’s best to pack a small book that has a complete list of the edible plants, berries, and mushrooms, illustrated with drawings or photos, and try to find them along the way.

Another kind of sprung bough.

Vitus Bering

In 1 725, Russian Czar Peter the Great, struggling to turn his country toward the West, chose Danish explorer Vitus Bering to explore what lay beyond Siberia. It took three years for one of Bering’s expeditions to arrive on the west coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, a distance of 1 3,000 miles. Bering set sail on July 13, 1 728, discovered St. Lawrence Island, then headed through the strait separating Asia from America. Another expedition was subsequently undertaken. This enterprise was colossal in scale, with multiple goals (most of them geopolitical), and nine hundred members scientists, sailors, and servants. Thousands of tons of equipment, as well as all the material they would need to build their ships, had to be brought by horse and boat across Siberia. It took eight years!

Once the ships were ready, surmounting huge odds, the navigators finally sailed eastward, and on July 16, 1741, Bering sighted the St. Elias mountains on the other side of the strait. He had reached his goal: Al-ey-as-ka, meaning literally “the land beyond the seas.”

Racked with scurvy, however, he simply shrugged his shoulders at seeing the long-sought land and turned back. The return trip was a doleful one. The ship rounded the Aleutians and came to grief in November on the rocky shores of an island where the expedition settled to wait out a horrible winter. Many of the men died there, including Bering himself, for whom the island was later named. Years later, Captain James Cook christened the passage separating Asia and America the Bering Strait.

Travel on horseback can either be a great pleasure (right), or a total nightmare, as in the following photograph, of crossing a rock-strewn slope, where every step is a hard-won victory.

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