Skiing Across Alaska: Update

Apr 7, 2011
Outside Magazine

To raise awareness about first responders diagnosed with PTSD, guest blogger Michael Ferrara plans to ski 900 miles across Alaska, south to north, from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean, with his dog Lhotse trotting beside him. To learn more about Ferrara's quest, read The Man Who Saw Too Much and check out his web site,

We pulled out of Talkeetna yesterday with the secret of fire. Dave Shuman got me what I needed to get a stove going. Just in the knick of time too. Without the secret of fire I was in danger of being challanged for trip leader. Now my leadership is safe and we are on the trail.

On the way out of town we met numerous people we had met in other parts of the world. It's what I love about mountain towns. It doesn't hurt to be dragging a sled down a muddy street to draw attention. It is about 4 miles, as the raven flies, from Talkeetna to Trapper Creek. We, however, are not ravens. The first crossing of the Susitna went great. The weather was cool and snowing lightly. The rivers in Alaska are never straightforward. They break into multiple veins and snake along. So we would cross the river, get up on the other bank, and follow the snow machine tracks. But time and time again we'ld be blocked by another running river tributary.

We wandered around following the tracks and trying to get though for about 2 hours. By now the temperature had risen and it was snowing harder and the snow was wet. Finally we found ourselves back at the Spur and followed it to the park highway.

Upon arriving at the junction we took refuge in the truck stop. It was now getting dark and we were soaking wet. The time on the river had been hard on Lhotse. He kept postholeing in the rotten snow. His pack was full and wet. He was starting to limp so I took his pack. It had now changed from snow to freezing rain.

We went across the street to the fire station to ask to lay out our bags. I introduced us, told the ambulance guy what we were doing, and asked for a dry piece of floor. No luck. A lot of talk about the barn being a public property and needing authorization. We were cold and wet and I was not looking forward to a night in the tent.

Back at the truck stop we ran into the dispatcher from K2 aviation. I had met him in Talkeetna. He offered us a ride up to Trapper creek where there was a truck stop/RV park with rooms in back. Lhotse got in the back seat of the warm dry truck and fell immediatly asleep.

Now for the suprise. We get a room in the truck stop. While talking to the folks there the project came up. Well it turns out they had a bad call recently on the ambulance, double snowmobile fatal, locals. The woman up front says at least one of the people on scene was having trouble with the call. So I decide Lhotse could use a break, the weather was sucky and offered to stick around and to talk to them tomorrow about the stress of small town medic.

Well when I come back to the store they show me a map. There is a snowmobile track along the river for the next 16. It passes about 100 meters behind the RV park. Bread cast upon the water. This means good traveling, no noisey highway, good camping. It's got a goodly amount of snow on it so I don't know if we can make it in one day.

No change in the weather in the foreseable future. But we're warm and dry and ready to get into the bush. Sun rise is 7:15 and we want to greet it. By traveling earlier we hope to get our distance done before the snow turns to rain.

--Michael Ferrara

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