Days 4 and 5, of our Alaskan and Canadian Adventure.
Date : Sunday and Monday Feb.. 4th and 5th 2007
Places visited : St Michael, Healy (opposite), Klikitarik Camp, and on to Golsovia.
Distance travelled : 50 Miles approximately by dog sled.
Weather : An unprecedented four days of warmer weather (around freezing) recently, combined with a strong breeze, had reduced the snow cover somewhat. However the forecast was good for us, in that it would be colder but sunny. Great weather for the start of the trip.
Map courtesy of Bering Air - the Airport Lounge at Unalakleet.
(Smudge courtesy of all the people who have pointed and said "You are Here")
Our journey had taken us via Anchorage to Nome, our furthest west on the Alaskan peninsular. The International Date Line and Russia were barely 150 miles away at the top left of the map. Flying in the ten seater plane we hopped over to Unalakleet (the big smudge on the map) and finally arrived at St Michael ( arrowed).
Sunday dawned fresh and clear as forecasted and it was time to get the dogs and supplies prepared for the journey.
Jerry and family starting to prepare the dogs
Glen fitting booties to Chicco due to the potentially sharp ice on the first sea crossing.
Tevia keeping her legs crossed, hoping to be selected for the trek
Daddy Dog (?) eager to go now the sun was up.
Glen loading final dog food and other supplies onto the trailer of the snow machine.
Clara and Jerrine securing the second skidoo load.
Clara, Jerry's wife, would be staying to looking after the youngest grand child, but Jerrine would be joining us as chief cook for the trip.
As the forecast was good, she would be bringing Hailey and Mathias along by snow machine for their first winter trip to Golsovia Lodge.
A short down hill from the house to the beach . . . "Ride the brake, ride the break !" . . . as we were rushing over the bumpy ground,
then swish - the brake was off, the dogs were pulling across the sea ice, and we were on our way.
Five miles later and back on land we were making good progress. Here Manny held tail position in our four dog sled party.
The trail still held good snow. It was frozen and icy but the dogs didn't seem to mind. Our pace was good and the mileage was starting to build.
Ann, Louie and Manny pausing to rest and snack the dogs about two hours into the run. They had fish, we had a mixture of chocolate, nuts and raisins.
Dog Mushing seems to be a combination of relaxed standing on the rear runners as the dog whisked you though wonderful scenery, to occasional one legged pushing to help the dogs and sled up a slope, to mild panic as you hit a bump, cut a corner or overbalanced on a slope. Then it was brace the knees, try not to fall off, and if you do, try to hold on to the sled so that you didn't get parted from the dogs ! East really once you got the knack.
Snack over, the dogs start barking again to tell us they are ready to go.
After four hours we past the frame of an old cabin and reached an ice covered lagoon. A small river entering the sea here signified we had reached Klikitarik and our campsite for the night. A last bumpy ride over the ice blocks on the beach, across the frozen lagoon and we had arrived.
Klikitarik Camp - now that's what I call luxury camping. Tony, Jerrine and Jerry had arrived first, opened the camp, and started the generator.
Our first job was to attend to the dogs. We untied them from the sleds, hitched them to their stakeout lines and fed them another fish snack.
Then we had chance to attend to ourselves. This tent would be our accommodation for the night.
Jerrine had prepared supper for us all and we spent the rest of the evening getting to know our hosts.
Night time at Klikitarik Camp. Ann sheltering from the slight breeze.
As we had brought our own cold weather gear, and we hadn't been subjected to any extremes of climate, our Icebreaker winter base layers and Rab Down Jackets were used in preference to the heavier parkas. However, the insulated boots were very useful indeed and kept our feet wonderfully warm.
Down sleeping bags that Jerry also provided were going to give us a cozy night's sleep.
Up bright and early with the dawn, the sun was starting to give colour to the sky.
By the way, dawn was about 10 am !
Outside the moon still hadn't set, but the dogs seemed un-phased by the low overnight temperatures.
They had just curled up and gone to sleep.
Frost on the sled and a view of the frozen bay behind.
The white waves are not water but jumbled pressure ridges of ice stacked up where the ice flows had moved and crashed into each other further out in the bay.
The ice cover is never still.
The rise and fall of the tide causes shore ice to break up and re-freeze, forming overlapping blocks of ice and unstable shore conditions.
In the morning we had a short walk back to the lagoon to see the old cabin.
Apparently it is still used as a framework for a temporary home when the fisheries board come to survey fish stocks.
At the camp Hailey and Mathias were ready to go.
And so were the dogs . . . we were on our way again heading east for Golsovia Lodge.
These were my dogs: Haze and Trigger (lead dogs), Blue and digger (middle), with Chico and Daisey as wheel dogs (closest to the sled)
Manny waving as we climb out of Klikitarik.
A brief pause near the top of Toik hill.
Note the orange side rope holding the two snow anchors, securely kicked into place to stop the dogs running off with the sled !
Wild places, broad horizons, vast open spaces as we glide down the other side.
The hills here reach to only 2800 feet but on the other side is the mighty Yukon River and vast miles of wilderness countryside.
Shrub Willow and Alder trees shelter in the hollows alongside the trail. Ann and Louie are ahead on their sleds.
Taking photos on the move was an interesting experience, especially on the bumpy frozen trail.
Our destination was somewhere over the next headland.
More frozen seas as we pass close to the shore again.
The trail can be seen ahead as it climbs out of the bay and on towards Golsovia.
Looking back the sun is setting slowly as we pass yet another old telegraph pole.
In the early 1900's a Telegraph link was established between St Michael's, Unalakleet and Nome. These were all that remains of that line.
The trail we were following was also the route of the sled dog mail deliveries all those years back. Nowadays the radio and airplanes do the job instead.
Tucked in a hollow next to the Golsovia River, the Lodge was a welcome sight.
First job again is to un harness and feed the dogs, A quick fish snack from us before unpacking the sleds, then Louie feeds each of them their supper
The dogs ate a mixture of all-in-one dog food, powdered fish meal and raw fish oil. The food was mixed with hot water and fed to the dogs a ladle at a time next to where they were tethered. With two meals a day and snacks of frozen fish along the way, the dogs were happy and warm even outdoors.
That night we slept in the cabin and the dogs settled down for their night in the open, down by the frozen river.
A single spotlight illuminates the dogs overnight. It had the advantage that Jerry could see any predators who might approach the dogs.
His biggest fear was wolves and the lodge and Jerry's skidoos were equipped with guns in case of emergencies.
A small display of Northern Lights illuminated the eastern sky with a feint green haze as we turned in for the night.(10 second exposure).
It had been a great day.
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Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon G7 Digital camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built using Dreamweaver.
This site best viewed with . . .warm boots during the day and an extra log on the wood burning stove in the evening.