BUSH ALASKA EXPEDITIONS: EAGLE, ALASKA

My husband and I left Norway to experience the real mushing in Alaska. Not that we couldn’t have done that in Norway, but after having read about the pioneers and gold miners, the word Yukon is something really special.Flying in to Eagle on a sunny day, seeing the vast areas of snow, mountains and forests, made me realize that this is real – real wilderness.We were met by our hosts Wayne and Scarlett Hall and taken directly to the old public school of Eagle. Scarlett was in charge of the checkpoint of the Percy DeWolfe memorial race that was currently underway. The mushers arrived. They were the guys who I have followed on the internet during the Iditarod race: Hans Gatt, Gerry Willomitzer and other mushers from Jamaica, Scotland and of course, Alaska.The mushers fed their dogs and we fed the mushers – caribou burritos and chicken curry. The food was as international as the mushers.About midnight we left the village on snowmachines to go to our host’s cabin down on the Yukon River, and suddenly the sky was filled by the northern lights welcoming us to Alaska.The next morning I was teamed up with 4 of the 39 dogs the Halls had at that time. Off we went, through the forest, at a speed totally unknown to someone who is used to a couple of slow malamutes. As we headed down to the river, all I could do was close my eyes and hope for the best. Out on the Yukon River traveling went smoothly and I started using the different commands: “Gee, haw, and whoa!” Everything went fine and I must have looked like a professional as Scarlett decided to take me on a trail through the forest back at their home. That was like a rollercoaster with S curves. I did not have a chance. After using malamutes, these dogs were much smaller and I wanted to make it easier for them so I did not use my brake. In a sharp curve, I went one way and my team went another.The command “Whoa!” had an accent that my leading dog Silla did not know, and she wanted to go home.The next morning all four of us, Morten, my husband, Wayne and Scarlett and I left for a cabin up at the Seventy Mile River. The sun was shining and I felt so proud to see my team of dogs, working so hard and being so kind.At Seventy Mile we traveled the land trail up to the falls. On our way up there we saw a lot of equipment being placed there for mining during the summer; some miners were still hoping for the big strike.I was impressed to see how these dogs reacted on glare ice. They just went on. Scarlett told me how she trained them while they were puppies, taking them down to the Yukon before the breakup.After a couple of days we took the caterpillar trail all the way back to Eagle. The trail had some parts that were more interesting than fun due to little snow and a lot of ice. In Eagle we stopped for some shopping. It seemed very exotic to park your dogs instead of your car.Our next expedition started the next day, and this time we were going down to the Forty Mile River. At this time, the Yukon had a lot of overflow and glare ice.On this trip I was holding on to my handle bar so tight, that my knuckles were white. My sled was fishtailing and I hoped that the sled would not fall over or that I would lose my grip. That would have been a very cold experience.We traveled about 30 miles before we decided to find a camping site. The most important thing was to find ice to melt for the dogs, a place to put up the picket line for 28 dogs and a good place for the tent. The next morning we harnessed the dogs and left the tent as we should use it on our return.I must admit that traveling the old mail route made me feel privileged. With all of the history that is embedded in this trail, I wished that the trail could have spoken to me. Here I was, mushing in this beautiful place that had been a dream, hope and nightmare for so many people. I especially felt it while visiting the ghost town of Forty Mile. We stopped at Clinton Creek. In 1975 it was a small town living off of the mining of asbestos. Today it is just one house, owned by a couple, Sandy and Earl. They bought the area with its own road and bridge. (Note to all Yukon Quest participants – make sure to stop here for a very nice rest – the hospitality is wonderful.)Late in March the snow disappears quickly and we had to go back sooner than we had planned. Returning to our tent at Yukon, we had a very special night with the wolves howling around us. With all this traveling up and down the Yukon, we did not meet any other mushers. This is what makes mushing here so unique – the enormous space, the wilderness. Anita C. Strindberg Note from Wayne Hall:Bush Alaska Expeditions does not run scheduled tours. All tours are customized to clientele expectations. Once a client books us with we begin working with them and find out the level of difficulty they are able to handle and what exactly they are seeking in a tour using dogs on wilderness travel. Expeditions include trips along the Yukon River and other wild, scenic rivers, boreal forest drainages and up to caribou country above treeline. Tours usually run from 7 to 10 days but we have had tours as little as 5 days and up to 14. Accommodations can range from homestead and base camp cabins, to miner/trapline cabins of bygone days to tent camps. This usually depends on the routing that the clients choose.Our clients fly into Fairbanks and then they are booked onto the mail plane to travel to Eagle. For more information on Bush Alaska Expeditions visit http://bushalaskaexpeditions.com.

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