30 days in. In this last write up seems like they’ve really had a rough last few days. Falling through the ice, getting lost in a blizzard, & now broken parts. 4,500 miles is a loooong ways! Here’s the latest write up with some of there recent troubles.
Day 30/ Apr 4 – Consider this your trail report (for the past few days), albeit conveyed by Kasie
The Richardson Mountains didn’t give up easy, but after a tough few days, the 3 Old Guys made it to Old Crow this afternoon. The Guys are reporting in that they have logged an estimated 4,500-5,000 of hard miles and everything is getting tired. In fact, when they arrived into town today one individual commented, “You guys look tired” – fortunately, while they agree that they are indeed tired, they are still laughing, still upbeat, and still healthy.
Upon arriving in Old Crow, they stopped at the Co-op where they understood there were a couple of rooms; they were told that no rooms were available tonight when a woman walked in and said curiously, “are you the 3 Old Guys?”…. “we have a cabin waiting for you” – what a wonderful journey to be welcomed with such hospitality! The guys were escorted to a local’s home where they had a spare cabin with a woodstove for the guys to stay in. They spent the afternoon speaking with her husband about the trail ahead, described as “330 miles of no trail.”
Hearing the trek ahead will be a continued challenge, the Guys immediately took to assessing the sleds. In Inuvik they proactively changed out some parts, but they have still been having problems with the clutches, putting grease on them to get by; after evaluating the machines today, it was determined that they will need to stay in Old Crow until clutch parts can be flown in and the necessary repairs can be made- however long that takes. (Note – we have a plan in motion)
The Guys do not have service in Old Crow, so our first communication via GPS messaging went a bit like this “Old Crow. Need 2 Driven Clutch. At least sleeve. Daily flight Whitehorse.” – You can imagine the stir these types of messages cause the “home-front” crew as calls and texts start flying between the critical few that can act, while simultaneously informing the broader group of the good and bad news coming in from the trail.
A few hours after the initial stir occurred today, I received an unexpected, but welcome, call from Rob – note this is the first time that we have heard from him, aside from brief GPS messages since Friday (Mar 31). While he does not have service, he was able to go back to the Co-op and briefly connect to their internet so that he could check-in and – lucky for us – provide a proper trail update from the last few days; I will do my best to share their tale:
When the 3 Old Guys finally departed Fort McPherson on Saturday (Apr 1) and got going on the correct route, they had a good trail all the way to the first cabin, they ventured forward but quickly found themselves on open, barren land. They knew they were supposed to go by a creek and would find bits and pieces of prior track, but struggled to find the right trail. As dusk approached, they made the decision to head back to the first cabin for the night and make a fresh start in the morning.
With an early start on Apr 2, the guys re-evaluated the trek they had taken the prior day. With the terrain as it was, Rob and Rex went ahead to assess while Paul stayed with the sleighs. They were able to get up near the creek, but still were unclear on where the trail went. They decided to park the sleds and walk – this is when Rob went through the ice. Wet up just past his knees and in frigid temperatures the two Old Guys quickly returned to the sleds and Paul where Rob put on his overcoat, emptied his Bunny boots and put on dry clothes.
It was about this same time, as Rob was getting dry, when two First Nations people showed up on a single Ski-Doo. They were coming to connect with some others and guide them over the pass. What perfect timing! The 3 Old Guys followed as these locals steered them in a much different direction than they expected to a steep chute – “seemed nearly vertical” to the top of the pass. Once they reached the top “the wind was so fierce you could not see more than 15-20 yards in front of you.” The local experts immediately said it was too dangerous and that they needed to turn back – and so they did. While the guides headed back to Fort McPherson, the 3 Old Guys retreated back to the first cabin for a second night. Prior to departing from the locals, they got some directions on the trail for the morning, which the Old Guys say was as clear as mud to them, “Go this way, Take the creek, It is the only trail, Can’t miss it.”
The 3 Old Guys climbed the chute again the morning of Apr 3, this time as they reached the top they found an unexpected surprise: no snow, all rock and, of course, not a single track. They made their best guess on how to navigate their way down and finally found the creek, but it was loaded with deep snow. They made the decision to leave the sleighs again and Rob and Rex road ahead to break trail through the powder. After a short while, out of what seemed like no where to the Guys, another First Nations local appeared. He said he was there to guide another group, going the opposite direction, but that it was getting windy and he had to move quickly. The guys asked “where is the trail” and his simple reply, “you’re on it.” He instructed them to follow him and that he would make a track for them. The Guys re-connected their sleighs and were able to swiftly follow his trail; about 30 minutes later a group of ~8 came through headed towards Fort McPherson under his supervision. Their tracks helped the Old Guys make much better time the remainder of the day to the Porcupine River. When they came to this intersection they were surprised to find the tracks went the opposite direction from Old Crow, upon further investigation they saw a small tipi and cabin just down the river a bit where the 3 Old Guys decided their safest bet was to rest for the night before heading to Old Crow this morning (Apr 4).
The ride into Old Crow was relatively mild considering the past few days. While there is a “trail” that connects Fort McPherson to Old Crow, this is not a modern trail that many of us may think of – it is not marked, it is not heavily packed down as only a few sleds ride it here and there – and between nearly every occasion that someone passes on this route it likely snows, the wind blows, and all evidence is lost, bringing it back to its peaceful state.