A Beaver Creek Float with the Family

June 25th, 2024

The family and I did the classic Beaver Creek float and hike. Jokingly I suggested to my daughter Lizzy that she write a blog post about it for me. Amazingly, she agreed – enjoy!

In a story that was told during one of the Dark Winter Nights productions it was stated that something truly was terrifying because Jay Cable started screaming, and he never screams. 

I can say that this is factually false. My dad screams more than probably anybody else I know. Multiple times I have had to tell him to not scream unless he is actually seriously injured because otherwise, nearby people will come running to witness the terrible injury, which would be embarrassing for both him and me. 

Note: The dark winter nights episode Lizzy is refering to can be found here:
(Also, I never scream. -JC)


The beaver creek trip I went on this summer, luckily, did not include very much screaming, except for a few moments. The weather was fairly perfect, with almost no bugs.

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The packrafting was definitely not hot, but also not the frigid hail-filled adventure a previous beaver creek trip was. We had one day of packrafting, then stayed at a cabin for the night, then crossed the creek again to get to the trail on the other side. I was boating in a tricolor boat and took joy in paddling far ahead from the rest of the group so that I had to be shouted at to wait. 

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Lizzy, in the “tricolor boat”..
Lizzy, in her natural habitat..
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The wildlife from the creek was quite impressive. We saw multiple eagles and ospreys, plus a porcupine and a moose. Bank swallows were also a continual presence later during the boating. 

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Summer cabin life..
Lizzy, the young author of this screed, appreciating the aroma of her well aged socks..

The short journey away from the cabin on the second day turned out to be an unexpected source of adventure. I got across perfectly fine in my boat, which I then deflated and rolled up to go in my dad’s backpack. However, there was a shriek from the middle of the creek as my dad was crossing. Apparently he had a thermos of coffee in the boat which had a poor lid, or a lid he had forgotten to actually screw on. Whatever the cause, he was soon sitting in a pool of coffee that had filled the inside of his raft. 

When he got out of the boat the seat of his pants was soaked. There was also a very strong odor of coffee as he walked past. He quickly changed into different pants and underwear. However, he then asked the family to wash both in the creek. I refused and ran in the opposite direction. Finally, he was forced to wash his own clothing, and then changed into dry shorts. 

It wouldn’t really have mattered if he had kept the original shorts on. He had told us that there would be a creek crossing after the first, but that it would be shallow and that we would just walk across. It was not shallow. It was thigh deep on my dad, waist deep on me. I told my dad he had to come back and take my backpack for me. I had assumed, on a day we wouldn’t be boating, that I wouldn’t need to seal everything into a dry sack. Apparently, on all hiking trips it is best to assume that you are going swimming. 

The trail on the first day of hiking wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. The brush, unfortunately, in some locations was densest beside and in the trail. The brush would grow specifically in the trail because water would flow down it. Specifically the two miles after the trail shelter, or before the trail shelter from our perspective, are very brushy. 

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When we reached camp I entertained myself by reading the two books I brought, both of which I finished during the trip. I was very appreciative of the large supply of camp chairs in the trail shelter. 

The third day, while being the shortest, was somewhat frustrating for me. My wet feet and poor shoes generated blisters. I was also carrying the largest kayak paddles, which stuck out from the top of my pack and caught on all the brush. 

Why, what big paddles you have Lizzy!

My spirits improved near the end of the hike, and I was pleased with myself once I reached the parking lot and took my shoes off. I also have an appreciation now for my hatred of coffee. I will never end up with coffee packraft crotch. 


March 19th, 2024

Nick J from Fairbanks had just arrived, and I was helping him get his boots out of his ski bindings.  We got them off and headed into the wall tent which is the Iditarod Trail Invitational racers’ lodging while in Rohn.  Just after entering the tent, there was a big gust of wind, and with a loud bang, the chimney blew off, followed by one of the walls blowing in.  I asked Nick to hold the wall down, then ran to go wake up Adrian to help fix the stove.  With Adrian’s help, I got the stove back together and then got the wall firmly tacked down again, and Nick got to sit down and enjoy his brats, soup, and hot Tang. 

Another evening in Rohn! 

In 2013 I was welcomed into Rohn by Rob Kehrer.  He fed me, dried my stuff, and offered me as much pilot bread as I could eat.  I was so thrilled by the unlimited pilot bread!  Ever since then I have been looking for a chance to give back, and in mid-January someone from the ITI posted to Facebook saying they needed someone to volunteer for Rohn.  I responded, and I was in – after checking with my boss and family. 


Rob and O.E., in 2013


Me, 11 years later, wearing a “Team Heavy” sweatshirt and thinking of Rob. Photo compliments Laura R.

A few weeks later I was boarding a Beaver with my fellow volunteer Tony, and we were off to Rohn.   The flight was beautiful! 

ITI Rohn

ITI Rohn

The next few days were a bit of a blur directed by the ITI’s Adrian  – putting up tents, splitting wood, moving things around, etc, as we got ready for the racers’ arrival in Rohn.  Sam and Brian, who snowmachined in from the Willow area with Adrian, were wood-cutting machines.  So much firewood was cut up!  Adrian served more meat with breakfast and dinner than I have had in years. 

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The Rohn wall tent is ready to go! ITI Rohn

Tony, ready to cook brats!

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Banner ready!

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Rohn cabin ready!

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Tony, splitting wood like a mad person!

The first to arrive were Clinton and Kevin, followed by a continuous stream of other people.  

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Clinton, first in!

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Kevin, second!

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Kevin, under the banner!

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Tang and hot chocolate..

It was the beginning of five days of chaos.  Fortunately Tony is a night person, and he was willing to do the night shifts, while I did the mid-morning to midnight shift.  It worked out (at least for me, Tony might disagree as he did all the night shifts).  Soon we were settled into the routine of feeding racers, handing out hot drinks, drying their stuff, stocking the wood stove, preventing racers from hurting themselves or wrecking their stuff on the wood stove, etc.  After a while I felt a bit like a crazy laundry person, always drying stuff!  It soon became just a blur.   

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Drying boots.. well labeled?


Laundry up with a full house..


P.B. resupplying..

It was great seeing the racers though, and I got to see Petr, Nick, and other folks I knew from past trips on the Iditarod trail as they passed through.  There was a strong Fairbanks contingent and it was great to see NIkki, Aaron, and Ben! 

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Aaron ready to head out

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Aaron showing how he can get a whole bag of doritos in his snack bag – I was impressed!

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Tomas! He was a rookie, and rode from Rainy Pass Lodge to Nikolai (and possibly Mcgrath) solo!

And it was great to see Steph who I met in an Alaska Summer Wilderness Classic years ago – I didn’t know she was doing the race! 

At times it was fun.  I really enjoyed catching up with the various people I have traveled with in the past.  At times it was frustrating – as when I had to prevent someone from putting plastic containers on the (very hot) wood stove to warm up. The wood stove was an issue, as people didn’t seem to understand how hot it was, and how fast things melt, heat up, etc.  At times it was a bit depressing, mostly when helping folks dry out their gear.  At one point I was handed a fancy down jacket that was oddly heavy with weirdly chunky, hard, and large things in the pockets, only to discover the chunky things were frozen chunks of ice inside it – the jacket was soaked, and had several pounds of frozen water in it.  Coming in with puffy layers soaked with frozen sweat was oddly common. Really folks, if you are sweating out your puffy layers you need to take them off.   Mike C puts it bestdon’t sweat.  In another case it took over 20 minutes for someone to get his facemask off, having frozen it to his beard – i have no idea how he ate or drank before getting it off. Maybe he hadn’t eaten most of the day.  Partially frozen Hydro Flask style bottles were also common.  It is odd they are so popular, they are not really all that good at keeping beverages warm. 

Eventually, things died down, and the last racers, Doug and Sunny, were off.  I missed Sunny’s departure, but I walked Doug to the edge of the trees and saw him off. 

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Doug, heading out. He let out a huge whoop just after I took this photo – I don’t think he believed me how nice it was going to be – sunny, warm, with a fantastic view!

Some regrets: the Rohn tent only sleeps eight people, and there is supposed to be a first-in-first-out policy. I tried to be nice about kicking folks out, but it always backfired and just delayed the whole process.  I should have just kicked folks out ASAP to speed up turnover.  A huge thank you to everyone who just slept outside when the tent was full, or quickly got out when asked, it was really appreciated!   Live and learn.

It was amazing to me how busy things got.  While racing, I had only shared the tent with four other people at most, and several times had the place to myself.  At one point there were thirteen people in the tent including me: eight sleeping, and five standing or sitting – totally crazy! 

As things wound down, some of the Iditarod staff at Rohn suggested we stay for a few days and volunteer for the dog race.  A quick check with my family and with work (thanks for ghostwriting my Inreach message to work Laura!) and I was staying for the Iditarod.  

“Mystery Meat, Mystery Meat, Yummy Yummy Mystery Meat” 

In a bit of a sleep-deprived haze I sang to the dropped dogs while ladling soup made out of chunks of meat, fish, fat and kibble taken from mushers’ leftovers.   

“Yum, yum, so good to eat, Mystery Meat” 

The newer dogs looked at me like I was crazy, while the dogs dropped earlier looked on excitedly for their chance for a yummy ladle of meaty soup.  

“Mystery Meat, Mystery Meat, everyone loves Mystery Meat” 
Who knows what the vets resting in the nearby tent thought…

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Rohn, in the middle of dog race madness..

Volunteering for the Iditarod by staying on at Rohn was a bit odd – there wasn’t any paperwork, I was never given any rules or anything, so I wasn’t quite sure what was allowed and not allowed.   However, it started just like the ITI – lots of moving stuff around and getting ready – sorting drop bags, counting drop bags, putting up lights, etc, etc.    Eventually, other volunteers showed up, including vets, race materials, and other random people like me. 

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Mike, waiting for the action to start

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Rohn, all ready to go – just needs dogs!

The first sign of the actual dog race was when the Iditarod trail breakers arrived. It was a bit odd to see them and not really care that much – normally I am eagerly waiting for them in hopes for a better trail – or any trail at all.

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The Iditarod trail breakers passing though..

Eventually, the dog teams started arriving and then it was busy – moving stuff, parking teams, getting water, helping with dropped dogs, and doing other random tasks. I ended up spending a lot of time with the dropped dogs. The dogs dropped for overuse injuries (“orthopedic” I think the vets called it) perked up quickly, and started wanting attention and love.  The first two dogs dropped, a mixed-color male, and a darker-colored male, whose teams I don’t remember, and a dog dropped later, “China Cat” from Paige’s team from Squid Acres, in particular, were love bugs.  

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I am horrible at names, and even worse when sleep-deprived.  After around 20 hours of mostly nonstop activity, the last dog team left, and the cleanup began.  After the last dog team took off, there was a brief lull as everyone took a moment to relax.  While staring off into space I noticed the vets had all disappeared, so I went to go track them down and found them raking straw up in the dropped dogs area.   This sort of blew my mind – instead of taking a break, and getting the next flight out (vets are in demand, and three of the four at Rohn had assignments at other checkpoints after Rohn), they were off cleaning up and setting an example.   Shortly after that, everyone else started raking straw and cleaning up.  

ITI Rohn - the dog part

ITI Rohn - the dog part


After the last dogs left, a person on an Elan from the mid-1970s showed up. It turns out it was Lance, whom I met in 2016 when he was taking a mid-80s Bravo to the north slope via the Iditarod trail.  He said the Bravo was much nicer..  Lance is touring the Iditarod trail using all 1970s vintage gear.  He looked quite tired out!  

ITI Rohn - the dog part

The next day was spent tearing everything down and packing everything up, and the following morning Tony and I flew out. 

Tony used to help run AWACs for the Air Force and had a blast talking with our pilot about the various gadgets on the plane on our flight back, as well as sightseeing and looking for moose and wolves. 

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Rainy Pass Lodge!

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Enjoying the new fangled aviation gadgets!

All in all, it was a great experience!  My apologies to anyone whose name I repeatedly got wrong in my sleep-deprived haze.  I think I randomly started calling Tony “Antonio” at one point. 

It was great spending time with everyone at Rohn. Tony, Adrian, and the rest of the crew are fantastic human beings and it was great spending time with you all!

My apologies to anyone I forgot the name of called the wrong name, all the burned brats, and anything else I might have messed up while out at Rohn!

I would like to thank Steph the vet tech and NOLS instructor for her help inspecting various frostbitten parts and help calming down the traveling partners of folks with frostbitten parts – thanks, it was appreciated!  A big thank your to the people behind the ITI – thanks for making it happen, and thanks for letting me be part of it for a year! And of course my family for letting me disappear for two weeks!

The Alaska Wilderness Classic 2023 – Little Tok River to McCarthy

July 30th, 2023

Warning: I asked my daughter Molly to edit this post, and was told afterward that I would have gotten a D if I had turned this in as an assignment in her English class. I was told my writing is simplistic and childish. So you have been warned 🤣

Last year when the new Alaska Summer Wilderness Classic course was announced, going from the Little Tok River bridge to McCarthy I really wanted to do it.  Unfortunately, a bunch of things contrived to make it so I couldn’t make it, so this year I was committed!    After searching around, I eventually found my friend Peter was interested, and it was a go! 

The evening before we drove to the start, having dinner at Fast Eddies in Tok, then hung out with everyone before hitting the stack.  I joked a bit with someone parked near me about moving my car so it was behind his to absorb the bullets, as we were in a gravel pit that looked like it was a shooting range sometimes.  In the morning someone drove by really early, and in the morning there was a sign left up, facing outwards.  I walked around and was amused to see my joke had come true – it said: “4th of July Trap Shoot No Parking”.  
So after moving our cars, everyone headed out. 

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Peter and I zoomed along on the ATV trails at the start.  I was full of nervous energy and talked a bit too much to folks nearby.  The ATV trails eventually ended (or really, we lost them) in a river floodplain. After several hours of crossing back and forth, we found the ATV trail again, and we followed it up to the first pass, and we camped at the base of the second pass, with great views of Noyes Mountain. 

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Peter is a big appreciator of mountains and thus began the first of many brief mountain enjoyment stops where Peter would stop, look around and say “Mountain!” and point at a new mountain.  Or a mountain seen from a different angle or side.. The next day we zoomed up and over the pass, then headed down Platnum Creek to enjoy the great walking.  Some folks right ahead Peter and I, Caleb and Nate, put in right away, but I suggested waiting a while to see if it was actually worth floating.. A few miles later the group passed us, so we put in.  Platinum Creek was a bit of a mess – it wasn’t challenging but there was lots of wood with very few eddies, so there was quite a bit of panicked jumping in and out of the boat.  I tried to use my whistle to signal to Peter when to get out, but like an idiot, mine was rigged such I couldn’t keep it in my mouth without using a hand or bending down – a mistake.  Fortunately, we were just far enough behind Nate and Caleb that we could often tell there was something coming up when we could see them out of their boats.  Apparently at the pre-race gathering in Anchorage everyone (that is everyone but Jay and Peter from Fairbanks, hah) had been warned that Platnum Creek was a woody mess, but no one had mentioned it to us.  They also said at that same gathering that everyone should have a dry suit.  I almost didn’t bring mine.  Those Anchorage people, hah!  

 Near the confluence with the Nebesna River, we came around a corner and a very large lynx was looking downstream.  Just after that Christof stuck his head out of the woods and said he had flipped avoiding a sweeper and lost his paddle.  Fortunately, he found it in a strainer and had given up on floating.   He seemed a bit shaken up, but ok, so we kept on.  The creek widened out a bunch and then we came out on the big, wide Nebesna.  We worked our way across the Nebesna, taking out at Cooper Creek, then starting our walk up to the next pass. 

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Cooper is a wide flood plane that necks down to a narrow valley, with many crossings. 

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Eventually, we turned off into a smaller creek, then up and over to Blue Lake where we spent the night. 

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Best campsite ever – Blue Lake!

The next day it was down to Notch Creek, over the beautiful Cooper Pass, then down Notch. 

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Again I voted to just walk as Notch looked like pretty marginal floating, but after walking half the creek we put in, floating to near Cross Creek, where we hiked over to the Chisana River,  stopping to inflate to cross.  There was a set of fancy Gossamer Gear poles someone left there on the bank which I grabbed in case we caught up with whoever dropped them.  So light, so fancy, I was sure someone was missing them!   I also apparently left a few things including the fuel on the bank which Peter rescued (thanks Peter!).   At Chisana we caught up with Christof again and chatted a bit, then walked a few more miles before hitting the sack. 

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In the morning we headed up Geohenda to the Solo Flats, then over and down to the White River.  Such a beautiful area!  

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We enjoyed a few miles of ATV trails just before the White River, and the Solo Creek Guides had some fun with their signage. They even had an Iron Dog lath marker, which was super funny, given two mountain ranges separate us from the Iron Dog route.

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The weather had been sunny and hot, so the White River was raging.  We could have inflated and crossed, but the current was moving fast, so we went downstream to find a more braided section, and crossed with Caleb and Nate, then camped on a little clear creek.  In the morning it was up and across Flood Creek, which looked raging but wasn’t too bad, then along the old glacier remnants, then into Skoli, and onto the Goat Trail. 

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Crossing Flood Creek

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The Goat trail was a bit less trail-like than I remember, but the walking was mostly good.  There was still a fair bit of snow up there though! 

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We pressed on, eventually camping right before the steep part of the Goat Trail. In the morning we did the iconic scree slopes of the Goat Trail, then headed down to the Chitistone.  

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The Chitistone was really moving, and while we could have blown up and crossed it, it would be been a bummer to miss the eddy on the other side, so we walked up in hopes it was possible to ford it where it braided out a bit where the glacier and creek came together.

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No dice, it was still raging, and much too deep to cross.  So we wasted several hours inflating, crossing, and then crossing the glacial river, then finally getting all the way across and packed up.   Next up hiking down the Chitistone to Glacier Creek.  I remember this being a mess of alder swacking from my last visit but the walking was mostly great.  There were two big landslides I didn’t remember.  They are less landslides and more like the side of the mountain exploded. 

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Eventually, we reached Toby Creek, where we found Nate and Caleb waiting for the water to drop.  The water was too high to cross, but we all expected it to drop overnight, so we went to bed. 

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A few hours later there was the cry of “BEAR, BEAR” and I shot out of the tent fully awake, just to realize there was a small black bear across the creek that also couldn’t cross, and it quickly moved on.  From all the cries of “BEAR” I was expecting it to be in camp, trying to eat my food, hah!  Shortly after that Luc, Alan, and Lee arrived, set up their mid, and went to sleep.  The consensus from everyone was that instead of dropping Toby Creek was going up. Odd, I thought and went back to bed.  I wasn’t too worried – if it was still high we could just inflate and take out at the next eddy, it would be fine. A few hours later Peter woke me up, saying the channel that everyone had been looking at was going up, but that was because the creek had rerouted itself, the rest of the channels were all a lot lower.  So we packed up and the whole group of us crossed the creek and hiked down to Glacier Creek, where we put in and floated to May Creek Road.  

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The Chitistone seemed really high and had at least 5x times the volume than when I was here last time.  Rocks were bouncing along the bottom and you could hear the near-constant sound of rocks bouncing off rocks in the upper sections.   I led the group for the first section and ran the only section with any real white water, which looked fine, but as I moved through it, I realized they were way bigger than expected. Not a big deal, with nice clean eddy lines, so move around in it, just lots of water, and a mistake would be painful.  So I hopped out and re-directed everyone to a  cowardly side channel.  After that, we stuck to all the lower-volume side channels and reached May Creek Road uneventfully.   On the Nizna Luke, Lee, and Alan floated by in another channel, a mile or so before we took out.   Nate and Caleb took off, and we didn’t see them again. 

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We finished after the 9 miles or so of road walking with a scenic walk through McCarthy and were met by Peter’s son Sam and his friend Jack – Yay.  They soon had burritos cooking for us, and after that we walked back to town for ice cream, double yay! 

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I was so excited for ice cream that the lady serving it said to the other person staffing the store something about me being a little kid in Spanish, then in English told me I was just like a little kid because I was so excited.  So I did a little dance for them to show my excitement, which caused them to break up laughing.  The next day we drove to my car at the start, where I was excited to see it didn’t have any bullet holes in it, and made our separate ways back to Fairbanks. 

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Thanks for the company Peter, and for the ride Sam and Jack! 

Julian C. has a great video here:

Christof T also has a great video:

Ben A has a great one too:

A few things I would do differently  – 

  • I need to rig my whistle so I have to keep it in my mouth so I can signal hands-free.  I had it setup way too short, so I had to either bend my head down or use my hand to hold it – a huge mistake. 
  • I need to get a bit more serious about getting better at packrafting.
  • As a spur-of-the-last-minute gear choice, I had brought little mini gaters. Alas, they worked just well enough to show that gaters were a good idea, but not all that well.  Next time I will bring mini-gaiters that actually stay on. 
  • I brought my really old, and lightish paddle with a floppy connector.  I really regretted that on the chitistone – I need to not take that paddle on trips with actual white waters, it is either going to break, fall apart, or do both at the same time. 
  • I really, really should have brought a helmet. Listening to the rocks bang around under us on the Nizina and the Chitistone was pretty terrifying.  Next time I need to bring a  helmet!!
  • I need to spend a lot more time in class III water to get comfortable.  I need to find some white water friends in anchorage I can float with more often. 
  • My packrafts cargo fly’s zipper is really having trouble closing.  I need to figure out what is wrong or get it replaced, it is a huge pain and takes forever.  I have cleaned and lubed the daylight out of it, and it still is a pain in the butt, with lots of separation issues. 

A few things that worked really well: 

  • We had a hot freeze-dried meal every night.  That rocked, I would totally do that again.  Maybe also have one mid-day. 
  • I bought a lightish dry suit from REI using a coupon – the best $500 I have ever spent.  It is well under 2 lbs and adds a large comfort and safety factor.  Love it! 
  • I brought an extra day’s worth of food and ate most of it.  Including two nearly inedible Range Bars. One I had picked up in McGrath and took it to Nome with me.  They were like eating coffee grounds combined with dirt and chocolate.  Not enjoyable, but space efficient.  Otherwise, I was pretty happy with my food choices.  Peter less so, he had stomach issues most of the way. 
  • We used a tent of Peters, an MSR Hubba Hubba 2. It was surprisingly light for a “normal” tent, and while we could have saved some weight with something specialized, it was pretty roomy and convenient. 
  • Taking May Creek Road, while boring, is faster.  We walked pretty slowly and did a bit of dinking around and still finished within 4 minutes of Luc, Alan, and Lee who took the Nizina.  If we had hustled we would have beat them. 
  • I got an old Osprey Exos pack off REIs used gear site as a spur-of-the-moment replacement for my HMG pack after it became clear that a Seek Outside pack would take too long to get to me.  I am super happy with that pack and am now questioning these small niche brands now.  I like the design of my HMG, but I don’t like how floppy it is, and how hard it is to get it loaded so it isn’t moving around a lot.  On really long days it takes a toll on the stabilizing mussels in my upper body.  The Osprey pack was much, much nicer to carry – the best $110 I have ever spent!   I wish Osprey would make packs out of XPac or something similar that is waterproof or at least didn’t absorb water rather than the same fabric they used 30 years ago.  I might still try getting a Seek Outside flight or some other pack, but I am less convinced at this point that the normal options are not better. In particular, the side pockets are great – I was taking my water bottle in and out constantly, and never had any issues. 

I will likely add more to this when I get a chance. 

Our route can be found here: https://caltopo.com/m/EVJ7K

The Iditarod Trail, 2023

July 29th, 2023

After riding and pushing our bikes from Ophir we finally arrived at Moose Creek cabin just as the drizzle started. Miron welcomed us in, and we tucked our bikes under the eaves to keep them dry. The day had been beautiful, warm with blue skies and sun, but much too warm for the new trail put in by the Iditarod Trail breakers to set up. As we dried off in the cabin and cleaned up the nests squirrels had made on the bunks, the drizzle turned up a notch into intermittent rain. Miron was planning on heading out at 2 am, but Jamie, Bill, and I agreed to get up at 7 am then head out – but to go back to bed if it was still raining. Morning came, and I could hear the rain on the metal roof of the cabin. I stuck my head outside, and it was raining. Not hard rain, but enough to be pretty miserable. Back to bed, we went, tucked back into our -40f bags.. The glorious life on the Iditarod trail!  

Like everyone, Covid had cramped my adventure time the last few years.  After riding my bike to Nome in 2018 I had thought I was done with the Iditarod trail.   I signed up in 2022 to go to McGrath as a spur-of-the-moment thing and really had a wonderful experience.  When signup time came up again I was feeling like I hadn’t had any “real adventures” lately, so signed up for Nome – if nothing else it would be a good, long adventure and I was sure to have fun at least! 

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And so on a warm, sunny mid-afternoon, I found myself at Knik Lake with nearly a hundred other people.  The first part of the race is a bit of a maze, with so many options that mostly all look not very good, so after texting (aka bothering)  Andy P. of Seeing Double Sled Dog Racing about the best route (as he lives in trains in the area), I just decided to follow him.  He threatened to make me sign a waiver in case he got us all lost, but I escaped without any paperwork as Andy led a group of us to the first checkpoint.  As we neared the first checkpoint I noticed there was only one set of tire tracks ahead of us, and they were an unusual tread design – odd!  We arrived at the first checkpoint only to discover we were in the lead, with the fast guys Miron and Tyson right behind us.  I felt a bit bad being ahead of the fast guys, as they had taken a much longer and hillier route and ended up behind, alas.   Local knowledge for the win, thanks for getting us there Andy! 

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After chatting a bit, and having some snacks we left and headed to Yentna Station where I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup, and then on to  Bentalit Lodge the official second checkpoint. 

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I had never been to Bentalit before, and wow, that place is nice – and huge!  I got a room, a hamburger, and lots of other things to eat.  In the early hours of the morning, I headed out again, enjoying the fast firm trail to Skwenta, yay!  I said hi to Cindy at Skwenta, and lunch then moved on.  The trail stayed awesome, and I took a mix of the traditional route and the ice road, making a great time to Finger Lake.  Passing through Shell Lake was a bit sad, with a big empty hole where Shell Lake Lodge used to be.    

When I arrived at Finger Lake my insides were a bit unhappy, and I was very excited to go use the outhouse.  Yay for modern comforts, hah!    The very friendly volunteers were cleaning a very burned pan, it turns out they had only arrived recently, and had been delayed by the weather. 

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The leaders had passed through before they were there, missed their drop bags, and just had frozen burritos.  Fast people troubles, must be hard, hah! 

The trail was still awesome, so after restocking I headed out and had a great ride to Puntilla Lake with Tom M. and Peter D.   Puntilla was as nice as always, and the newish bunkhouse is so awesome.  As I arrived John “Faster than the dogs” L and Tim B were heading out and said something about staying ahead of the storm.  Hmm, “storm?” I thought, then I tried to get some sleep.   My insides didn’t cooperate, and I made lots and lots of visits to the outhouse.  My body was less than happy with something I ate, and that made it hard to sleep.  After one of the trips back from the outhouse it started to snow, and after noticing folks were awake, Justin, Spensor, Tom, Peter, and I headed out.  It was pretty calm, but I warned everyone it could be pretty windy up in the open area before Rainy Pass.  That turned out to be not true, the weather was great, warm, with a bit of wind.  The trail was a blown-in though.  My insides were still quite unhappy, and I spent most of the way to Rohn trying not to go the bathroom, though I had to twice in open areas in blowing snow which was super awkward.  Sigh.  Fortunately, the riding was pretty good as I was slow enough the rest of the group pulled away and disappeared into the distance, leaving me to ride in the nice trail they broke out for me.  And to jump off the trail when nature’s calls stopped going to voicemail and had to be answered. 

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I arrived in Rohn, where my insides and I finally came to an agreement on how happy we should be (happy!) and I crashed and got nearly 8 hours of sleep.  The rest of the group I had been riding with headed out after a few hours, pushed on by Justin.   I was amused to hear Justin rallying folks by saying “I haven’t suffered enough” and pointing out it was pretty warm out so biving wasn’t a problem. Which was a good point, as it was in the 20s, so warm!  I had the whole place to myself until Harm and Jamie H. showed up.  Jamie alas, had broken one of his boa laces on his fancy boots, confirming all my fears about those laces. 

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I left Rohn by myself, and had a wonderful ride, all invigorated by all the sleep I had gotten – so much sleep!  The trail was mostly good, though it was blown in sections, and I had been warned that the leaders were still not finished when I left Rohn, so obviously things were not fast.  

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I was enjoying things right up until I broke my seat post near Bear Creek Cabin.  I had been using a suspension seatpost that was oh-so comfortable, and on one of the deeper ruts left by Irondog I came down a bit too hard, and the post snapped. 

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There was a bit of cursing, but then I made peace with it – obviously, it must get slow at some point ahead of me, so I can just walk, no big deal, right?   I texted my wife Nancy who started tracking down a new seatpost for me. 

Shortly after that Adrien D. and his helper, John (maybe?) came by on their way to Rohn and gave me some Fireball, and we chatted for a bit. 

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After that, it was a long slow walk with a bit of riding to Nikolai.

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I stopped briefly to heat water and make dinner, but otherwise just kept moving.   I arrived in Nikolai just before Tom, Justin, Spenser, and Peter left.  I had the place to myself!  Since at this point, I was in no hurry, and not wanting to spend a week in McGrath I decided to get some sleep and head out in the evening.  I told myself since the checkpoint folks were saying it took Tyson (the winner of the short race) nearly 24 hours to get to the finish, it didn’t matter when I left, as I would be riding half it in the dark anyway.  

 **This turned out to be wrong, looking at the tracker now, Tyson left at 11 pm and arrived at 4 pm – way less than 24 hours11** 

After chatting a bunch with the folks staffing the Nikolai checkpoint, John and Brian (I think?), I crashed and got nearly 10 hours of sleep. 

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At 5 pm I headed out, and I arrived just before sunrise, riding and pushing mostly in the dark, hah!   The trail was a mix of ridable, and walking. It would have been much more ridable with a seatpost, but I wasn’t miserable and enjoyed the ride!

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McGrath was a bit of a madhouse. The finish is now at an old lodge, and it is big, but there are so many people doing it these days so it gets very crowded. I had been worried that I would get stuck for a long time in McGrath, as the southern route doesn’t see any traffic normally outside the dog race.    The forced break was good in some ways, as it allowed my new seatpost to arrive, thanks to Nancy, Jeff O, and the wonderful folks at Speedway Cycles.  Thanks, guys! 

Three days later, Myron G, Bill F, Jamie H, and I headed out mid-day, with some assurance there was going to be a trail at least as far as Ophir.   Just as we are leaving McGrath we saw Chet F. unloading a plane, and we chatted for a bit. Chet is a skier who has done the ITI several times and was headed to Ophir to help run the checkpoint.   He was heading there later today, and we left with an extra bounce in our pedaling knowing a friendly face awaited us. 
The ride to Ophir was fun, though things got a bit soft after the last house on the top of the hill after Takotna.  

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By 10 pm we were in Ophir, where we were welcomed in, fed, and enjoyed the heated wall tents set up for the mushers.  Alas, there was no trail after Ophir, so we spent the day helping the Iditarod checkpoint staff set things up.  It was great talking to everyone and getting a chance to catch up with Chet.  In the late afternoon, the Iditarod trail breakers passed though, and there was finally a trail! 

 In the evening they fed us again (BBQ, it was fantastic!), and the next morning we set out early.  Chet joined us for a brief ski, and we headed out into a warm morning, under clear skies and a bright moon.   Myron G zoomed off like the fast guy he is, and I didn’t expect to see him again.

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The trail was great, and we made good time to the first shelter cabin.. Then we were walking.  The temps had warmed up to near freezing, and the fresh trail was a soupy, unconsolidated mess.  So we walked, and for the rest of the day we rode a bit when the trail was in the trees, and sheltered from the sun, but in the open areas, it was soft and squishy.

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Mid-day Myron came by, apparently, he stopped at the first cabin hoping the trail would set up.   He was riding a lot more than we were, as we were pretty much not even trying when it was soft, and soon disappeared off into the distance.   We had several groups of snowmachiners pass by, including one couple on their way to Point Hope, which sounded like an amazing trip. 

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By evening it was lightly raining on and off, and we finally pulled into a very warm Moose Creek cabin and were welcomed by Myron.  After a bit of cleaning we settled in. I said we should get up at 7am and check to see if it was raining, as our weather forecasting friend, Ed Plumb, said rain was in the forecast.  Sure enough, just as I went to bed there was the sound of rain on the metal roof.. 

Myron took off in the early AM hours, and when we got up to check to see if it was raining, it was definitely raining, so we went back to bed.  It finally stopped raining mid-afternoon so we headed out for a bit of slog to Iditarod. 

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We arrived in the early evening, having enjoyed a long walk pushing our bikes with the occasional post hole into knee-deep snow in temperatures slightly above freezing.  

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The Iditarod folks were welcoming, and set us up in a small arctic oven tent complete with a propane-powered heater – so deluxe!!

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We resupplied, wading through the giant pile of huge trash bags the race organizers had left for us to find our stuff and hit the stack.  In the morning I had a cup of coffee from the Iditarod dog race staff, and we hit the road.  The trail was now an iron-hard sidewalk of fast riding – so hard, so fast! 

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All that wet snow had frozen super hard, and we had the best trail conditions I have ever seen – so firm, so fast! 

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We zoomed on to Shageluk, and were welcomed into town by Chevy Roach (https://www.facebook.com/roachfamilylbz/) and family, who opened their store where we got pizza, ice cream, and other stuff, then put us up in a small house, it was fantastic!  Later I learned they are famous, and have their own reality show as part of life below zero. In the morning we were on the trail again, heading through Anvik, Grayling, and eventually stopping for the night 20 miles down the trail past Grayling.   In Anvik I had pudding packs which Bill made fun of me for, but I love those things on the trail, and in Grayling there was a brief panic when I accidentally broke the Inreach app on my phone, requiring me to beg a wifi connection briefly.  We also stopped at Shirley Clarke’s and had lunch. Shirley is quite a character and an amazing cook! 

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In the morning we zoomed on to Eagle Island, where we saw Dan of Dewclaw stopped with his dogs and I said hi to some of my dog Eddy’s siblings. 

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Dan looked happy, more so than some of the other mushers we saw.  We were now in the mix with the mushers and saw mushers nearly constantly until we arrived in Nome.  After Eagle Island we rode on to Kaltag, doing the whole section of the Yukon river in 32 hours, which is amazing. The next day we rode to Unalakleet. 

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I love that section of the trail, as the transition from Interior Alaska to the coast is so stark, and it really feels like I have gone from one world to another.  The people on the trail change as well, with a lot more locals using the trail system.  I bumped into a young man with a seal skin hat at Old Woman cabin, and when I complimented him on his great hat he said his grandma made it for him. 

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Such a different world, and it is so neat to share it with the locals!  We spent the night at Peace on Earth pizza, crashing on the floor after eating lots of pizza, and then having more Pizza for dinner. 

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Brent at Peace on Earth is a wonderful person!  The next day we were texted by Jeff O warning us about a big storm system coming in, so we pressed on to Kaltag, hoping to arrive just before the storm hit, but instead the storm hit when we were still a ways out, slowing us down to a crawl at a few points.  Otherwise, the conditions were fantastic though – so firm, so fast! 

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When we arrived at Kaltag we were let into the school, where we crashed for nearly 12 hours.  The next day we rode from Kaltag to White Mountain, stopping in Elim and in Golvin. 

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We were met in Golvin by a small group who invited us into the school and served us dinner.  Grilled cheese sandwiches with moose – so yummy, and so welcoming!  I was really excited to meet folks from Golvin, as the other three times I have passed through there I have not seen anyone. 

The evening we spent with Jack and his family, with his son Liam cooking us a fantastic dinner.  Then the next day we rode into Nome, stopping briefly for burgers at Safety, then finished a few minutes before the musher Michael Williams Jr from Aniak.   

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Cute “dropped” dog at Safety who was living the best life, pets and hamburgers from a constant stream of Iditarod tour groups. He belongs to a Fairbanks musher, so it was great to see someone from home, ha!

We had a surprise encounter with Jeff O and Heather B in the hills outside Topkok  Jeff and Heather are friends from Fairbanks, and both current ITI record holders – Jeff for the northern route to Nome and Heather has the woman’s record to McGrath.   They are very good friends with Jamie and were super excited to see us.  And of course, us to see them. They had been planning to ride to Kaltag from Nome but the various storms had pinned them down, gradually reducing their goals to eventually Shagtoolik, where they flew back to Nome.   I thanked Jeff for helping me get a Seatpost, which he poh-pooped, but he was a huge help in Nancy getting me a new post.

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When we finished in Nome, Jodie Bailey of Dewclaw met us at the finish, handing me pizza, bananas, and a huge thing of M&Ms.  So appreciated!

Bill, Jamie, and I spent the next few days hanging out in Nome, enjoying the sights, and watching the last few mushers come in.  At that point, I was pretty worn out socially and needed some people free time, but I survived.  My friends Sue and Glen were out of town, but they generously allowed us to crash at their house with Egor “the very chatty” house sitter.  Sue is a very talkative person, so I was a bit worried about someone Sue would describe as ‘very chatty” but Egor turned out to be a very interested miner from the Lake Baikal region.   Thanks, Glen and Sue! 
I would like to thank my family Nancy, Molly, and Lizzy for letting me disappear on this adventure for nearly a month – you guys rock. Molly also edited this blog post, with lots of helpful and constructive criticism.  Better than Lizzy, at least, who told me I write in a very simplistic and childish manner -hah! 

I don’t think I am going to do the whole Nome route again – it is really time-consuming and only parts are worthwhile.  For segments I felt like I was holding the fast forward button, just burning time in the middle of no where with not much to gain. Spending life in “fast forward” spinning my wheels just to get to a place worth visiting doesn’t seem like a good use of my time… I might do sections again – Kaltag to Nome, and Ophir to Shageluk are really worth doing! 

To those that have come before – log books and cabin walls of the Iditarod Trail

March 23rd, 2023

This spring I biked from Knik to Nome on the southern route. I will eventually post a write-up about that, but meanwhile, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who has come before me.

The Southern route passes through a bunch of shelter cabins and their walls and log books were fascinating reminders of everyone who has ridden, walked, mushed, skied, and snowmachined the trail before me. So many great adventures, and reading about these adventures inspired me to eventually ride my bike on the same trails so many years later. A big thank you, I wouldn’t have had this wonderful experience without you blazing the trail before me!


Andy Sterns, Frank, and Kevin biked Dawson to Nome in 2003 on normal mountain bikes way before fat bikes.

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They even have an old documentary about their ride, a total classic. Andy gets teased a lot in the video, however, it should be pointed out Andy doesn’t have full control of one of his legs from a skiing accident a long time ago, and seeing him push his bike all that way is nothing short of amazing. Andy is the world’s most cheerful human being.

Mike C whose blog details many stories of the trail, and who spent years trying (and eventually succeeding!) to ride to Nome unsupported. No time inside, no resupply, no fires. Amazing!

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There were a bunch of entries from 2008..

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And a few from 2003, the year the Iditarod started in Fairbanks, and the human-powered race also started in Fairbanks. The stories from that year are epic, with lots of snow and the human-powered travelers getting stuck for days in Kokrine Hills Bible Camp eating endless pancakes.. I clipped Tom Possert entry, alas, not noticing it until reviewing photos much later.

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And from 2005, when there were only two finishers in the human-powered race, Carl Hutching and Dimitri Kieffer.

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My friends Ned Rozell and Bobby G.

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Tracy and Jay Petervary.. I think that year Tracy won both the woman’s division of the McGrath and Nome race.

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RJ Sauer, wonderful person and the maker of the “Thin White Line”, one of the first films about the human-powered race…

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His film is available on Vimeo, and really worth watching.

A Thin White Line from Brüdder on Vimeo.

Plus lots of other notables..

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Thanks – I wouldn’t have been there without you!

The Iditarod Trail

January 30th, 2023

In a month or so, with (a lot of!!) luck, I will be out biking the Iditarod trail as part of the Iditarod Trail Invitational.

I have lots of really good memories of traveling the Iditarod trail. So many good memories, I am really looking forward to making some new ones and being (mostly) free of responsibilities. Just riding my bike in the middle of no where, yay!




A couple of people have asked for my tracklogs. The ITI has had a semi-official policy of not allowing people to share them, but they have always been out there, so it doesn’t really seem that sensible. Since I handed them out to a few people, I decided I might as well just publicly share them since it doesn’t seem that fair just to provide them to a few people. I have put the tracklogs for my three rides to Nome here or the GPX file here. The gpx files should be easily downloadable from that site in a few different formats. Obviously, these rides were before the latest checkpoint changes, so the first section isn’t useful besides historical information. Folks should use caution with these, and not just blindly follow the route – the route changes, use common sense, and follow the Iditarod or Irondog route when it is marked.

If you follow these off a cliff, it is your own fault – use your common sense and use them as a rough guideline.

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