March 23, 1999 7:00 p.m. Wasilla, Alaska
Hi everyone, Denny Bergers and I arrived into anchorage last night about 8 p.m. It was about
35 degrees out, we stayed in downtown anchorage and hit a couple of local bars downtown, I would say downtown anchorage is a little aged and there were quite a few local natives kind of just hanging
out in front of a few certain spots, almost made us a little nervous. This morning we made our way thru the downtown stores to get a few cards off to home and then we headed out for a tour around town, we went over behind the airport and saw a bald eagle right away up high in a tree, after lunch we headed south out of town toward portage lake and glacier, the road follows the cook inlet which with the tide goes up and down 30 feet twice a day. The sun rises and sets in the south here, that is pretty wierd. You probably saw on the news about the avalanche that happened and killed 4 and 5 are still missing, this is the area we went to this afternoon, we went to the end of the road by the glacier and there is one store there at the end, the girl working there said they have had 35 feet of
snow this year, unbelievable how high it was piled up around their building., she said it has been record snowfalls, there is no where near that much snow on the ground by anchorage or here in wasilla. On the way out of the glacier we saw 3 moose walking in the river too, that was pretty exciting. The snow here is very thin and we are only about 15 miles from where we are supposed to rent sleds in the morning, if we really get to ride I wlll be suprised, I am on the hotels computer here so I will update again when I can this week, if all goes well we will ride for 2 nights and spend the night on the trail somewhere. This is as slim pickings as frederic, they need the snow here like they have down at the glacier. It is only about 100 miles from the glacier to here but there sure is a big difference in the snow.
Thanks for checking in, Pete
P.S. The rest of the scenery and mountains here are awesome, we took the old glen highway up here and it took us thru some pretty old towns and buildings.
Wednesday, march 24, 1999 Cantwell, Alaska
Well we went to big lake this morning and the snow was just about gone, we have gone now past Mt. Mckinley and about 150 miles past wasilla, we have met a guy named scott mayo that has grayjay snowmobile tours, he is going to take us out tommorow morning to lingcod lake and he says there is tons of snow out there and it is located by mt. Hess and hayes, in the alaska range, so we are looking forward to tommorow. You can check out scotts web page at www.grayjay.com, it is really pretty out here and we saw another moose today, so I will let you know how it goes. We are staying at the lazy j café and hotel which is a pretty cool place. Scott says we should see more moose and caribou on the ride and maybe a wolfe too. He has showed us the pictures.
Thanks for checking in. Pete
March 24,1999 7:00 p.m. Cantwell, Alaska
How does going 30 or 40 miles per hour on a 600 powder special sound? How about if you are doing it thru 2 to 4 feet of untouched powder! That’s what we have been doing all day. Un believable, we got here this morning at 8:00 a.m. to our hosts home Scott & Vivian Mayo’s, they run grayjay snowmobile tours and what a day it has been. We left here first thing this morning and headed up the Nenana River for about 10 miles and cut into the hills heading to their camp which is on lincod lake about 36 miles from here. Keep in mind they have been running people back here all winter and I would say 80 percent of today we did nothing but break new untouched snow. By the time we got to the camp we needed to gas up. The camp sits on the lake shore and consists of a large cook tent with all the comforts, fuel oil heater, gas cook stove, solar powered littled fans in the ceiling, the other large army style tent has sleeping cots for 4 along with the same style heat . They have a nice fire pit and they have to haul all their supplies including the gasoline too.. To explain todays whole riding experience is almost impossible to do, The snow was incredible and I learned first hand it is hard to get the powder special unstuck, but luckily I only did it once. You know when you see the snowmobile videos show them blasting thru the powder, that was us all the way. We were totally surrounded by mountains all day and we saw 5 moose and at least 12 caribou maybe 20, I lost count but there was a big herd of them and I never new it but the females have horns and this whole herd had horns. We took a lot of pictures and hopefully we had some great shots in there. There isnt one marked or groomed trail here and Scott is amazed that we all ride on trails in michigan. Scott and his wife were great guides, we never would have seen anything like that on our own, you can go hundreds of miles without a fence or a road. After we filled up at the camp we went up a little higher and were gone for a couple more hours and rode 35 miles just busting trail and then we went back to the camp for more gas, in that 35 miles I burned up just about a full tank of gas in the powder special, Denny and I took turns on the special and the other sled we had was a 440 Bearcat. I never saw one before but Scotts sled is a 500 Skandic with a 24 inch wide track, that thing will go thru anything and does not get stuck. I would do this again in a instant and maybe next year we can have a sledheads trip to alaska and do it again. Words really don’t do justice to the experience we had today.
Now I want to throw a little about the town of Cantwell, We stayed at the Lazy J Lounge and cabins, they too are very nice people, Jim and Mary run that place they have a restaurant on one side a bar on the other and 10 rooms. The town of cantwell has about 110 people in it . there are still many people that live here that don’t have electric or water, Kelly the bartender at the longhorn bar, partystore, laundromat, and town gathering place is one of them, she came here from virgiina 8 years ago and never left, she is very content with her life here and like she said this winter she didn’t have to worry about frozen pipes, It got down to 120 below with the windchill this winter and everybody had trouble with frozen everything, the lazy J has there water line 12 feet deep with 1 foot of blue styrofoam on that plus wrapped in heat tape, Jim said if the heat tape isnt on that it will still freeze. The School here has 32 kids in it in grades kindergarten thru 12th and they have 23 computers in the school. It really has been a great experience to meet the people of this town they have made us feel very welcome. There isnt anything even close to here and the people talk about running into town for supplies, well town is in fairbanks, and that is 157 miles from here. They talk about it like it is no big deal. Well that about it on this town and we will be off tommorow for our next stop which I will let you know what that is when I find out myself. Denny says hi to Jaye Lynn, Alex and Joush, they are watching our adventure here too.
Thanks for checking in. Pete and his buddy Denny Hey Alex & Joush, big pete says hi. Hi to Cathy and Melissa too.
P.S. It was a beautiful day out all day about 40 and sunny and on the way back in
we could see mount mckinley too.
March 27, 1999 11:00 a.m. Fairbanks, Alaska
Well here I am at the library in fairbanks, its about 25 degrees out, nothing new exciting since we left cantwell yesterday morning, but I did remember a few things to tell you about cantwell that I missed , when we were out riding we had a group of 3 moose come out of the thickets on the river and 2 of them crossed over to the other side and the third one stopped right in the middle of the river and turned and stared us down, he was very intent and had his tounge out as if to tell us to get away, they will charge you and I have to say I think it was on his mind. Another thing thats is hard to get used to is that you cant get any radio stations at all in cantwell and the news only seems to filter in to town by people who might bring a paper from fairbanks or anchorage and word of mouth. They do have satellite t.v. but no local stations on it. Mary at Lazy J also has a beauty shop upstairs and until she opened that up there there had never been a beauty shop in cantwell. Now on fairbanks we got here yesterday afternoon and on the way here we stopped at a bar called skinny dicks halfway inn, that was an interesting stop, I think more people stop there to get dicks t-shirts than anything and he proudly showed us all he had. Fairbanks just had their world ice carving championships just get over and it is amazing the things they carve out of ice, alot of them have started melting but there were things from a full size horse and rider to a dragon , igloo (a really big one with a chapel inside it) and a 5 foot around ice ball with a angel carved inside that. When the ice show is actually going on the sculptures are lit up at night with colored lights and it is really a sight to see. I have a customer here who has bought t-shirts from me for a long time so I hand deliverd them last night. Connie & Barbie run Reflections Lounge & Shenanigans Sports bar here. We had a good time there last night and gave us a grand tour of their establishment. Reflections is the only place we saw any wild life today and they really have a nice place there. Today we are of to the north pole.
Talk to you later. Pete
Monday March 29, noon Valdez, Alaska
Here we are in the home of the big oil spill, I want to go back to Saturday when I was at the library updating the only rude person I found in alaska told me to get off her computer, I didnt realize that I had gone over my time limit and I told her it would be just a minute and she said that was not o.k. and to get off now, so I did. Anyways everybody here seems to be overly friendly and willing to help you out. Saturday afternoon we went to North Pole to Santa Claus house and saw there was a sport show in town at the North Pole high school, well it was really a gun show which I thought they were trying to discourage people from taking guns to school, I was really looking for old bear archery bows and arrows and I found 5 bows and bought them. Denny & I started talking to a couple of guys who were asking us about all the bows and they were also telling us a old Fred Bear hunting story when another guy walked up and we got to talking and he was originally from grayling too. Ward Buron was his name and although I new of him I had never had the chance to meet him. He was just in grayling a couple weeks ago and I had heard he was there but it is funny how you can run into someone so far away. After we left the north pole we went to Chena Hot Springs about 60 miles from fairbanks, we thought it would be something to see but it really was a waste of time so back to fairbanks to the comfort inn which incidently has the only swimming pool in town. When I went down to the hot tub I was sitting in there with a couple and we got to talking about where we were from and the lady was from Cantwell and turned out to be Scott & Vivs next door nieghbors. Don & Krystie was there names and it just shows again how big alaksa is but everybody seems to know everyone else. Don went and called Scott just to tell him he ran into us already. Saturday nite it the Silver Spur was the evening entertainment with a good country band and alot of good dancers. On Sunday morning we left fairbanks and got about 50 miles south on the richards hiway and saw some people fishing on a lake so we stopped to see what they were catching. Another good example of nice people in alaska, they told us to go get a license and they would hook us up. We went back up the road and got a one day license for 10 bucks and went back to the lake. The 8 people were college student from University of Fairbanks, Alaska. They were Duncan, Heather, O’Rien, Eric, Laura, John, and Brook the german shorthair. Oh yes how could I miss Monica & Rob, monica was telling us about her dream with sally fields and her built in port a potty in her car, she is a very nice but maybe a little demented lady. Anyways we fished for about 4 hours and that came out to about 1 fish per hour. Silvers and rainbows is what normally comes out of that lake but all we caught were silvers. The ice was 4 to 5 feet deep there and the power auger would just barely make it thru. Monica & Heather were a little more energetic and had a hand auger, first they augered as far as they could and then chopped a wider area about a foot deep into the ice with a ax so they could auger down into the water, that took them about 45 minutes. Good Job Girls. Well after fishing we went on south and we had noticed sleds all day heading back toward fairbanks. The people we talked to said they were all coming from summit lake which is at the top of the mountain. It was a pretty drive to summit lake but the problem when we got there is nobody rents sleds. We went about another 25 miles south past there to Paxson where we spent the night. Paxson is about 140 miles straigt east of Cantwell so if you had sleds and enough gas you could ride to cantwell pretty easily, riding here is not like in michigan, you break your own trails and make sure you have enough gas to get back where you came from. NO BARS Or Gas Stations to stop at. The hotel at Paxson was old but a o.k. place to stay until the generator died about 6 this morning. They were trying to get a back up generator running when we left. We headed for Valdez and we got here about 1 hour ago. What a beautiful drive into valdez and there is a ton of snow here, Denny is out right now trying to get us sleds lined up for tommorow. Another thing about alaska is the word here is snowmachine, every body says they are going snowmaching. We also stopped up the road about 20 miles from here at Valdez Heli Skiing. They had 3 choppers taking people to the mountain where they get to ski 6 runs for the day for about 500 dollars. She said they try to do 6 runs of 3 to 5 thousand vertical feet for a total of about 20 thousand feet in a day, it looked fun but not for me. I told her I would look like a snowball. Everybody wore beacons in case they were in the bad situation of a avalanche. On the way here today we saw 1 eagle , 2 caribou 1 big fox, and a bunch of snow shoe rabbits. So thats about it for now so hopefully I will have a new riding tommorow. I probably wont get to do update again till wednesday.
Thanks for checking in. Pete (and hi to Cathy & Melissa)
March 31, 1999 Valdez, Alaska
Hi, Coming at you from downtown Valdez at Captain Joes gas station, here is another good example of nice alaskan people, right after I updated on Monday we met Jeff & Laura Saxe who own captain joes and we told them we were looking to go riding, Jeff said he was going in about an hour and he called another friend Steve Hood who loaned me his polaris 700 RMK and Jeff loaned Denny Lauras 600 xc. Talk about extreme riding, he took us into the mountains and there is no margin for error on a trip like that, we went up and over forever , first we got up so high that the truck looked like a ant down on the highway and then we went higher to the point that the highway looked like a ant down there. When you go up those hills you go full tilt and dont look back, you have to take them as they come. We did alot of sidehilling and if you dont keep on the machine just right by the time it stops rolling at the bottom it would look like a total yard sale. We went up into some bowls and we broke fresh snow the whole time we were out which was about 3 hours. That was an experience I will never forget. The mountains and scenery here around Valdez are probably the best in the state. Jeff said that a couple years ago he rode up in one of those passes in July. Right now is prime riding season here and they will continue to ride into May here. There was about 5 inches of snowfall here last night and it is not unusual for them to get 3 feet here overnight. Nobody here uses snowplows on there trucks because they get to much snow it is all moved with loaders. Now on to our ride on Tuesday. We hooked up with Mike Buck of Remote Access, LLC , he does guided sled tours into the mountains, we met him in the morning at Tsiana Lodge about 35 miles north of Valdez, he too had 700 Polaris RMK which stands for Rocky Mountain King. We took off out of the lodge about 10:30 and headed up a glacier , our first stop was at this ice cave in the glacier, absolutely beautiful, when you go inside it the ice crystal are like giant snow flakes and glimmering in the light. You can run your hand across them and they fall like shaved ice. From there we went on up the glacier and like Mike says he hates following other peoples tracks, it took us about 10 miles and we were up into valleys where nobody had been and we broke our own trail for most of the rest of the day. You know when you see the new snowmobile videos and they show all the perfect powder with no other track in it, thats what its like riding up here and Mike says you can do the same thing everyday and not hit other tracks. The ride with Mike was not quite as spine tingling as with Jeff, but we did have a few straight down heart pounding moments, We circled around a couple more mountains and came out about 25 miles up the road from the lodge and rode the Alaskan pipeline back down toward the lodge and on the pipeline we did pass 4 other machines and we saw 1 moose and 1 eagle and we came across a helicopter in trail that was waiting for skiers to come down the hill. By the time we got back to the lodge we had gone 84 miles but it was only 3:30 so we took off again and did some nice riding thru more gullys and trees, I managed to get stuck 3 times and when you get those things stuck in waist deep snow it isnt alot of fun getting them out, the last time I got stuck was going straight up a hill and I almost crested it and stuck it almost standing up. We worked along time to get it out almost rolling it in the process and then after that I couldnt get it started, after drying the plugs out and pulling on it like crazy Mike came over and pulled twice on it and got it started. Before we left in the morning Mike put an extra 5 gallons of gas on the back of each machine and he has hoses that run under the seat so the gas can suck out of the 5 gallon cans first and then use up the gas in the machine, anyways right after we unstuck the machine on the straightup hill and Mike ran out of gas, luckily we were on our way back to the lodge and it was only about a half mile aday so Denny ran back and brought some gas. All in all it was another awsome day of riding and a Mike took us on a great ride, it was almost 7 by the time we got back. You can check out Mikes web page at www.snowmobile.cc or call him at 907-835-3182. One other thing if you thought going to town from cantwell was a long drive at 150 miles, Valdez closest big town is Anchorage and its only 300 miles away. We are heading out of here this morning and back to anchorage.
Thanks for Checking in. Pete
March 31, 1999 Anchorage, Alaska 5:30 p.m. Alaska time (4 hours behind Frederic)
After about a 6 hour drive from Valdez we got back here to Anchorage, It was snowing hard thru the Thomson Pass and was slippery and hard to see. We came up on Emil The mail man and his side kick Bill, they had a flat tire and were trying to get the spare undon and couldnt figure out how to lower the tire. Emil has been the mail man there for 38 years and hasnt had a flat on one of these new fangled cars. We got him fixed up and off they went with the mail. We met Emil and Bill yesterday morning just before we went out riding. His mail route is 130 miles long and he used to go 1/2 way to anchorage everyday. I forgot to put in about the highmarking we were doing with jeff on monday nite, that is a rush and a half, all you have to do is find a giant mountain with lots of fresh snow on it and go as fast and high as you dare and come back down in one piece making a nice big half circle, I watched Jeff do one and I thought he was crazy going that high but then of course I thought I would try it, once you get going on it it doesnt look as steep and you just keep going for it, I still didnt make it quiet as high as Jeff but it was pretty cool. When you think a valley or canyon stops you just look and most of the time you find a way thru it and keep going & going. We are at the diamond center mall right now and they had a library here so I thought I would throw in another update.
Thanks for checking in. Pete
April 3, 1999 Frederic, Michigan
After a long flight home I got back late thursday nite and pretty much tried to relax and catch up on some sleep. Overall the whole trip was great. Riding here in Michigan just doesnt compare. The riding in the Cantwell area was great powder and anyone could handle the terrain and area around there, Scott & Viv’s camp is a really great setup and would be a great place to stay. The riding in Valdez can be from intermeiate to extreme and is very scenic too, the snow there was not quite as powdery as the snow the week before but I am sure it is constantly changing. Mike Buck took us on a great ride with all types of terrain. If anyone would like more info on any of these places I will have info in the store this winter or just e-mail me.
Thanks for checking in. Pete