A true Alaska vacation and a vacation for adventurers is what we call Winter Vacations for adventurers of Alaska! It is cold, but so incredibly beautiful and inspiring.
To experience the Alaska cold, an average that rarely comes up above -35 below zero. Alaska, whose weather doesn’t even consider wind-chill, in factoring her temperatures. Normal is in the forties….no, not those 40’s… more in line with -40 to -45 below zero.
At -50 below, I’ll take a cup of water outside and throw it, just to hear the scream of the air hitting the water turning it instantly into ice crystals.
Winter Vacations for Adventurers
Walking out to feed the horses on this side of the river, the first clue as to the temperature (without peaking at the thermometer!) is calling out to the boys (the horses), the fact that I’m talking with my teeth clenched. Not from frustration or cold, but the first muscle to give in to the cold, despite layers of winter-gear, are the jaw muscles. They just don’t work.
It is cold. So cold, the wind doesn’t blow and the only sounds are of the river ice exploding as the channels beneath find escape. It sounds like a rifle shot. The fuel barrels, on the airstrip, flex in the cold and it sounds like they are being tossed from one side to the other.
We’ll warm the snowmobiles up and get them ready to go as breakfast is served in the warm and welcoming Lodge. All the emergency gear is double-checked and bungied onto the backs of the sno-gos while guests and guides alike start adding their final layers of Winter outer gear.
A final check on radio batteries, tucked inside parkas where they’ll stay warm, thermoses grabbed off the bar and out the door with googles and helmets in hand with a final, “See you tonight!” over each shoulder.
Climbing on the machines and lining out for the trail leading out of the Pioneer Outfitters compound and we are immediately surrounded by Alaska’s Winter.
We’ll go by the Big Meadow and drop the hay that is loaded into the guide’s sleds. We’ll leave the sleds on the river’s edge until we pick them back up on the way home.
The range horses will come running when they hear the snowmobile engines, knowing that we’ll have something for them as well.
Powerful and shaggy in their Winter coats, muzzles and eyes frosted and half wild from the freedom and fighting off wolf packs, the horses are indeed a sight to be seen, plowing through the snow, snow flying in the storms they make running hell-bent to catch us.
We’ll climb the big mountain with the snowmobiles and look out as far as can be seen. Snow covered and crystal clear with the Alaska blue skies shining down on all of it and us.
Running up ice-shoots of the different creeks is fun, if a little time-consuming with not quite making it, turning around and hitting it again with enough power to land the top and look out again over the ice and how far up you’ve come.
We’ll see Mountain Caribou, Alaska-Yukon Moose as well as ptarmigan and small critters. We may run across wolves, fox, coyotes and if we are really lucky get a glimpse of a wolverine or lynx or martin at the tree lines.
Riding up to the Chisana Glacier, we’ll stop at Boggs’ Bar and show you where the prospectors first stop was after climbing down from the glacier. The old cabins that were stores, houses of ill-repute and places to eat and sleep have almost been completely erased by the glacier’s water movement, but some still remain and the shells of others.
There is so much to see and do, but the Alaska Winter is also very dark, so we’ll turn towards home as the sun sets. We’ll hook the sleds back up and head back over to Pioneer Outfitters side of the river, looking forward to the warm toddies and hot dinner.
By the looks of the clear dark sky and the feel of the cold seeping into my gear, we may be building a bonfire tonight to watch the Northern Lights by tonight.
Tomorrow? Maybe we’ll go ice-fishing or head over the trail that was created by the last historic gold rush. There are many good sized lakes and small-ish mountains to play on in that loop.
We’ll bring snowshoes with us tomorrow and teach the youngsters how to use them. We may even bring the sleds to use on the big hill next to the lake we fish on, during the winter.
We’ll have a great time, which ever direction we head. We’ll be safe and smart and enjoy all Alaska has to offer.
Are YOU ready to have a Winter Vacation that you will treasure for always?