In the post written at the very beginning of August, The International Horseback Adventure, Part 1 ~ we were already on our way to pick up and move the first group of horses. At the end of our 2013 IHA (International Horseback Adventure) we were 7-weeeks MIA in the far North wilderness of the Yukon and Alaska. This is a bit of rumor control, shall we say. Folks want to talk, so lets chat.
Pioneer Outfitters, since 1924, has been safely guiding people from all over the world into the Alaskan wilderness on various kinds of Horseback Adventures as well as Big Game Hunts. Year-round Adventures and excursions on snowmobiles in our nation’s largest National Park; the Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve.
With a reputation of strength, honor and ability, our collective acceptance and tolerance of defeat, corruptness and incompetence amounts to less than nothing. So here is the deal, out loud and written for the whole wide world to read it and take comfort in knowing that when life really does turn to shit, there are people who will not quit, no matter what. People you can count on, even when everything seems to say otherwise.
The 2013 IHA (International Horseback Adventure) is the time-honored journey for transporting new horses into Chisana, Alaska from the Yukon, to add to the existing range horse herd that has always been part of Pioneer Outfitters, living wild and free (when not working) in the wilderness of Alaska.
The International Horseback Adventure (IHA)was meticulously planned and arranged to the last detail. That, alone, should have been the first hint to us, the Team at Pioneer Outfitters, that we were tempting fate and Murphy himself to cause mischief (Murphy’s Law).
In April of 2013 Pioneer Outfitters began looking for and gathering horses to add to our range horse herd of 19 horses (that are, for the most part nearing retirement) in Chisana. Horses were located and chosen and the details of purchasing them and having them tested for Coggins (The Coggins Test is a blood titer which was developed to detect the Equine Infectious Anemia virus, or EIA. It was first used in the 1940’s, and was invented by Alfred Coggins, a veterinarian who worked at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. EIA is a highly contagious, often fatal disease of horses, which is transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. As one of the other responders indicated, there is no cure- and the only way to control the disease is by testing for it, and destroying horses which test positive.) was ok-ed for them to travel from Alberta into Alaska as we always have done. By early July they had been chosen and tested and the truck driver found and hired to haul them from Alberta to Beaver Creek Yukon where we have historically began the 85 mile cross country trip to bring in the horses that would be part of our lives and livelihood.
One of these horses tested positive for the Coggins. It was retested, declared positive and put down. The remaining 12 Horses were put into quarantine for 45 days. That would put them free to travel, AFTER we began our hunting season. We wanted to have at least a few horses added into the herd before the Fall 2013 Hunting Season began, so the search began again, closer to home, in Alaska. We found 9 horses that we had chosen. (One had to be returned as the horse turned out to have unknown issues and was dangerous to us and our guests in what we do and would live a healthier/happier life elsewhere.) We bought and had the Coggins test issued for 8 horses to bring to Beaver Creek Yukon to ride into Chisana before our Fall Hunting Season began.
I would like to point out, these horses were sold to us as broke to ride and trained to neck reign and function as a horse. This was inaccurate but not insurmountable as this is nothing new to us and training horses is something we are capable of and experienced in. So while this was a mild-piss-off, we were still ahead of the whole game.
The next real problem we faced was the unprecedented weather that Alaska and the Yukon has experienced this year with the record breaking heat, glacier ice and permafrost melting to create high dangers in the icy high, flooding waters and all this water caused Alaska and the Yukon’s terrible bogs to turn into death traps. The wild fires were also of great concern.
We immediately took steps to counter the effects of the heat by changing the route we would take and spent only one night in the camp of the trail-head that we had chosen to put in at. We then moved to a better and more viable option 22km (In the Yukon) to a better trail-head to put in from there, instead, as it provided two options to us for circumventing much of the deadly flooding water and much of the bogs.
Then the smoke hit the Yukon. Visibility went down to zero, overnight. Clients were arriving in Chisana and wondering where we were. We called and checked in with updates for our crew and the remaining professional Alaska Guides, daily. We were coming.
The situation went down-hill fast from there. Non Resident Hunters were at our base camp in Chisana, waiting for our return to Chisana to meet and sign paperwork to get them out and on their hunts and onto their Adventures as we were stuck on hold waiting for the immediate and terrible danger to abate enough for it to be a doable risk for us to set off to return to Chisana.
Days later, checking in with our Team in Chisana, we learned that the Clients/Hunters were in Chisana as we still remained in Beaver Creek, Yukon holding for a break in the weather, Master Guide Terry Overly told the lead Professional Guide as well as our head Lodge Keeper that we would, no matter what happened now, offer these clients, waiting, a chance to come back for another hunt in 2014; no matter what they got to hunt in 2013 with us, so that they would be assured we were not playing games or being unprofessional or unethical, we intended to give them an outstanding experience, in Alaska, with Pioneer Outfitters, still.
Another day’s check in: we were told that the clients had decided to leave and chartered 40 Mile Air to pick them up the following morning and quit their hunt. Master Guide spoke with the Lead Guide left in Chisana about the change in heart to stay and hope to spend some time in the field upon our return, hunting, he was told that this group of hunters had been drinking heavy amounts of alcohol every night since their arrival and were getting extremely drunk nightly, usually starting in the early afternoon.
The next day, when these clients departed, we received word upon checking in with the crew and Team in Chisana that the “word” was that we were “hiding out” in Beaver Creek because we were not legal to hunt. I called BULLSHIT on this statement and began an online search for information on this accusation.
I searched “Master Guide Terry Overly” and here, on the Big Game Commercial Services website (http://www.dced.state.ak.us/occ/apps/GuiUseReg.cfm)
I found this:
P.O. BOX CZN, TOK, AK 99780
Whoa. THIS is BAD.
August 17th, 2013? What in the world is THIS?? Our (Pioneer Outfitters, Master Guide Terry Overly) business wasn’t even LEGAL until the 17th?? It WAS some sort of clerical mistake.
WE DEALT WITH THIS PROMPTLY AND EFFICIENTLY, DIRECTLY AT THE SOURCE. ~ It was indeed a clerical error.
(Now think.) Good grief. If the weather, the Coggins tests, the fires; had been different- we would have broken the law. Because clerical error or not, legally, the paperwork had the wrong dates. We would have gone hunting. That is what we do. We would have never suspected there was a thing wrong with the legalities.
This was our reputation. This was completely, 100% unacceptable and the repercussions were very ugly.
We had (before we knew this issue of the Guide Use Area Permit) offered each of the Alaska Big Game Hunters, effected by our unprecedented delay a free do-over Hunt with us in 2014, because as is on and included in our contract, on the website and on all of our personal paperwork, we DO NOT issue refunds.
We DO COMPLETELY live by high ethical and moral standards, as humans and as Professional Guides, we wanted these hunters to know and feel that they could ALWAYS trust us to do what is right and just.
We feel at Pioneer Outfitters that the best and only way to represent this way of life is to Walk our own Talk, every day, all day, Professionally and personally and we work to show the world the strength of Teamwork.
If we felt that we had done wrong or been neglectful, our heads would be bowed in shame and we would calmly “take” whatever punishment was due. We have not. Nor will we, ever.
The ripples of our delay also touched on the Team with The 2013 IHA (International Horseback Adventure). Tensions that were already rising, strained higher, personal injuries and illnesses were ignored, and everyone involved worked harder. It may have seemed, to anyone not involved and on location, that this journey could not possibly have taken this long. That would be an incorrect assumption.
Alaska Chick’s Blog has given me the most precious gift, over the last three and a half years, folks. It has blessed me with an incredible opportunity to be as clear and as honest as is the dream of anyone. “If it is online, and it is a business, it better be real and true. Otherwise, eventually, you will destroy yourself.” ~Was one of the first lessons I was taught, learning to create and run Pioneer Outfitters website and blog.
I was there. I was one of the 8 riders bringing in the new 17 horses on the 2013 IHA (International Horseback Adventure) and I am one of the Professional Guides awaited in Chisana. I took the first three hits from these new horses. I am also the Mommy, who promised her little girl with a hug and lots of kisses that I would be back in no more than a week, at the latest. My little girl became a young lady while I was away.
If we could have been there one hour earlier, we would have. There was not one day that wasn’t wrung dry of every drop of everything it had to give and exhaustion was accepted as simply the normal way to function. I am proud of both what we accomplished and how. I am also incredibly proud of our Team in Chisana who also had one incredibly impossible situation after another to deal with and did, as a Team and above and beyond anyone’s dream for leadership.
Personally, I am looking forward to meeting these clients in 2014! LOL, oh, I know they will probably feel and be a bit froggy when they arrive for their do-overs. But this is what we do. It’s just not a problem. Let them come and experience all we can offer them, on horseback, in the Alaska wilderness.