A Walk In The Alaskan Wilderness

Snow ShoeingAs a final post about my travels in Alaska I thought I would tell you about a little walk my wife and I took. It was a walk in snow shoes! 

We had travelled to a Lodge some 130 miles south of Fairbanks and in the middle of nowhere. It was located at an old roadhouse that was literally 40 miles of wilderness in everywhere direction. Idyllic in many senses but a little daunting if for any reason you needed help or the snow came down heavy and we could be stranded. The drive there had been incredible as we began to head into the Alaskan mountain range and across the plains where caribou were grazing. The road was a solid block of ice which made for some intense hours of concentration to get there in one piece.

Once at the Lodge it was peaceful and relaxed to sit by the roaring fire chatting with our host and the other guests. After a good nights sleep we decided to go for a trek in the surrounding forests with some snow shoes.

The first wooded area was quite open and easy to trek thru and after a while it opened up to a wide expanse where the trans Alaskan pipeline ran underground. The ground felt much more solid and the opening allowed us to view the two mountain ranges that sat either side of the valley. The frozen river snaked off into the distance and clouds rolled in from each mountain range and drew closed like curtains over the valley.

There were some markers along the forest that pegged out a route up to the Alaskan range and so we decided to keep trekking. The snow was heavy laden on the ground and we had opted for shorter snow shoes which meant every so often we would be up to our waists in thick snow. We trekked for 30 min following the markers in what we thought was a big loop. After a while we realised that we could no longer see the brightly coloured ribbon that marked the way. I felt I had a sense of where we needed to go and so we pushed on. It was hardly a path but it felt like it had been travelled before. The forest began to get thicker and with our warm winter coats it was hard to squeeze thru the trees. Every so often our path was crossed with what looked like moose tracks. The snow had come down heavy in the night which made it easy to tell which tracks looked fresh and there was no denying it, moose had been here. As we continued the tracks increased. I tried to keep cool, knowing we had been told that of everything we could run into a moose was most likely and if they had a calf then they could be deadly and charge us. It was a nervous 20 min before we finally stumbled onto the clearing of the pipeline.

We trekked down a short way in the opposite direction to a creek that was frozen. I was hopeful the frozen waters may attract wildlife as it had fresher shrubs to graze on. As we approached I saw a flash of movement on the bank of the creek, about 100m away. I could see the colour of fur but only just, as it blended into it’s surroundings. I stood for a few minutes and decided to take a picture on full zoom. I saw the creature move twice more and then it was gone.

We leisurely trekked back to the Lodge and warmed up by the fire with a beer. I took the picture off my camera and zoomed in further. I was amazed to see what looked like three small faces starring back at me. It sent a shiver down my spine. I showed our host at the Lodge and she said she was aware there three active wolf packs in the area and at that distance they could have been on us in 5 or 6 seconds if they had wanted to. I was quite glad I didn’t know this beforehand, as I dont think I would have been quite so calm!