Trip Number: 13421A
Staff: Don Murch
- Drive your own dog team into the wilderness
- View spectacular scenery high above tree line
- Enjoy a historic area on the trail of the gold rush miners
- Charter air flights to and from Eagle, Alaska
- Dogs, sleds, tents sleeping bags, meals, unsolicited tall tales
- Expedition-quality winter outerwear available
Photo: Ram Parekh
This trip is designed to provide a more thorough winter adventure using dogs
and sleds to access the remote goldfield areas and cabins of the 40 Mile River
Mining District. We will travel into the mountains and climb above tree line
to use the windswept trails of the ridgelines to find a route into the heart
of this wilderness. A combination of rustic cabins and the heated tents that
we carry on the sleds will provide shelter. The only sounds that break the silence
will be the hiss of the runners and the pit-pat of the dogs' feet on the trail.
The trip itself will be strenuous, as well as rewarding. The days are longer
as spring nears and the temperatures may be moderating somewhat, but we will
be busy with feeding the dogs and setting up camps. Nights warming by the fire
will provide ample opportunity for the telling of stories true and somewhat
embellished. If you can lift your head from the pillow it is possible to see
the northern lights glimmering above.
We are looking for a few strong souls to adventure to the max.
We will meet up in Fairbanks on the evening of Sunday, March 3 to prepare for
the start of the trip on Tuesday, March 5.
Photo: Ram Parekh
Day 1: We will fly by charter aircraft from the east ramp
at the Fairbanks Airport to the snow-covered strip at Eagle. There we will be
met by Wayne and Scarlett Hall and a pack of dogs for your introduction to the
sport. After some training we will travel 8 miles down the frozen Yukon River
to the lodge at Last Chance Creek.
Day 2: After loading up the sleds, we depart for American
Summit. A difficult passage over glacier ice is to be expected. Camp will be
at a ridgetop cabin above tree line.
Day 3: Continuing along the mountainous route we will be following
the path of the Yukon Quest race farther into the ranges. Steep climbs and exposed
conditions can make this a difficult day as well.
Day 4: After breaking camp we will drop into a gold mining
area below tree line to camp deep in the forest. Drifting snow may present some
Day 5: Continuing downstream we will approach the frozen Yukon
River and make camp in a gold rush-era cabin. More lies will be told around
Day 6: We will strike out down the big expanse of ice and
wind up back at Eagle for an ice cream and the final push back to the lodge
at Last Chance.
Day 7: After a hearty breakfast we will harness up the dogs
for a final mush, upwind, to the airstrip at Eagle for the flight back to Fairbanks.
We'll arrive in time for lunch.
Photo: Scarlett Hall
In order for your potentially lost luggage to catch up with you it is best
to plan to arrive in Fairbanks on Sunday, March 3rd. This leaves a day for last-minute
gear changes to be made in the shopping mecca of Fairbanks. Return flights can
be booked for the evening of March 12th or the morning of March 13th.
The trip leader will be reserving rooms for the group at Ah Rose Marie, a B&B
in downtown Fairbanks. These rooms cost about $60 per night and come with a
fantastic hot breakfast.
Accommodations and Food
The Hall family lives a subsistence life in the bush of Alaska. Accommodations
are basic. There is no running water anywhere except under the ice at this time
of year. Meals can be designed for vegetarians, but the main part of the food
is wild game -- caribou, moose, and salmon, depending on the fall hunting success.
We will also be using some lightweight backpacking-style meals, with plenty
of hot soups, while on the trail.
Heavy sleeping bags and pads are provided. (The trip leader has slept out under
the stars many times on these trips; the bags are great.) We will have "Arctic
Oven"-style tents with small wood stoves inside. This is deluxe comfort
given the conditions.
This will be a strenuous trip, partly due to the route and partly due to the
cold conditions above the tree line. Some winter experience will be important.
The ability to ski or snowboard is advantageous so that familiarity with the
dynamics of a loaded sled sliding down a gully will be recognized.
Photo: Bob Thornton
Truly, the trip leader is a semi-pudgy guy about 60, but he has the energy
and enthusiasm of someone half that. He has always wanted to do a trip that
was out of the ordinary and this is the culmination of that desire, and he has
designed this expedition for success.
You have to be in shape but you don’t have to be an amazing athlete either
-- just the ability to go backpacking in the high mountains, or to go running
several times a week and not complain about it too much. Our route may be 150
miles in length.
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring warm, layered under-clothing, socks in plentitude,
hats, work gloves, and mitten liners, and you may want to purchase your own
winter boots. The outfitters can provide the heavy bib overalls and a heavy
parka with a fur ruff on the hood. They also have the boots needed for a trip
of this magnitude. Some participants get the parka and pants on their own (not
- O'Neill, Dan, Land Gone Lonesome.
- Balzar, John, Yukon Alone.
- London, Jack, To Build a Fire.
Photo: Jahan Fahami
Many issues are important for this area. The distribution of fishing rights
on the Yukon affect all the users of the resource. Conflicts with mining claims
and the environment are a constant issue. Native land right issues are another
point of conflict in this area. The hunting of wolves by airplane has been a
very public battle along the Yukon for several years.
Travel in Alaska and the Arctic
Sierra Club outings in Alaska and Arctic Canada are special experiences in true wilderness, but they also carry an element of risk. Trip locales are often remote, away from the amenities of civilization, including sophisticated medical care and immediate evacuation possibilities. Many of our Alaska and Arctic Canada trips now carry satellite phones, but even with this technology, communication with the outside world can be difficult and emergency assistance can be days away. Weather in Alaska and Arctic Canada is unpredictable, and inclement weather can be severe. Among other hazards are cold river and stream crossings, tidal activity, calving glaciers, the psychological effects of remoteness, and the presence of large wild animals. You're in good hands, though, so don't worry: Your trip leaders have vast experience in the Last Frontier, and they'll provide all the guidance you need.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Don Murch has been leading wilderness trips in the continental United States, Alaska, Mexico and the southern hemisphere for 40 years. He is a crab boat captain along the north Pacific coast during the winter and an organic vegetable grower in the summer at his home farm in Bolinas, California. His main joy is his family. And eating.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips