First Sight of the Yukon

The first time I saw the Yukon?  I remember it well.  It was the week I moved to Alaska.  The week I moved all the way from New York to Coldfoot for a new job.

 

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The jack of all trades up at Coldfoot Camp had picked me up in Fairbanks to drive me north to the Arctic.  I was so nervous and so excited.  He took a look at me as I buckled my seatbelt in the passenger seat of his truck.  “Don’t freak out when we skid because we ARE going to skid.”  And with that introduction, we were off, bumping along north, north, north, up the Haul Road.  Up the Dalton “Highway.”  It was still early enough in the season that the road was all ice and snow.  The Yukon River is a couple of hours and then some drive north of Fairbanks.  You know it is coming because you go down a BIIIGG hill.  You’re going to want your brakes to be working for that one.

 

We skidded.  I held onto my seat, white knuckles, stomach doing summersaults, but didn’t make a sound.  He looked back over at me once we had regained control.  I kept staring straight ahead at the road, trying to look as unfazed as possible.  Maybe I passed the test because he didn’t say anything.  He just kept driving.

 

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I forgot about it all a few minutes later though because the river came into view.  It was HUGE.  Bigger than I had ever imagined.  Bigger than any river I had ever seen.  All white and frozen solid.  Breakup was still a few months off.  Come to think of it, I have seen more of the Yukon River frozen than flowing.  I’ve really only seen the point where it passes under the Haul Road, occasionally getting out there to take a break on a long drive south to Fairbanks or back north to Coldfoot.  I once stopped to eat lunch there early in the spring and climbed up on a little tug boat that was parked there for the winter for a better view.  I suppose I have seen it from the air a few times too but mostly near the same spot and then by Fort Yukon once.  That leaves a LOT of exploring to do!

 

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The first time I day dreamed of floating the Yukon?  I remember that day even better!  That was at ALDHA-West’s Triple Crown Ceremony at Lake Wenatchee in Washington.  What year was it?  2011 I think.  At that long distance hiking gathering I ran into Walking Carrot and Nowhere Man who I’d met on the CDT.  We somehow got onto the topic of a Yukon River trip that they had done years ago.  I could have listened to them talk about it for days.  I was almost angry when a friend came over and changed the topic to the meaning behind wilderness area designations!  It was already too late for me.  The Yukon River had me in its grip.  I was sold.  Completely entranced by the idea of seeing its length.

I managed to put the day dream on the shelf for a little while, but last fall a new friend from Haines brought the thought up again.  “We should float the Yukon next summer” I wasn’t sure if he was serious but I certainly wasn’t going to say “no” to a fantastic idea like that.  So “YES” it was.  And YES!  It is!

 

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Every time I look at a map of the river I just can’t believe how long and wild and winding the Yukon looks.  What an adventure!  Right through the heart of the Yukon Territory and the heart of Alaska.  Through all that is wild and all that is good.

Right now, the plan is to start the trip hopefully hiking up the Chilkoot Trail as soon as breakup allows in June.  There is still a lot of work to do be done to get ready but planning these expeditions is always fun!  I’ll keep you updated!

Gold! Gold! Gold!

 

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Pictures of gold miners from the Klondike Gold Rush have always fascinated me.  Their hard lives and desperate stories catch something in me.  I am half heartbroken by their trials and half jealous that they got to see Alaska and the Yukon at that time in history- when it was still so wild, when rivers were the only roads and dog team was the best way to get around, before the highways and Walmarts and landfills, before far away urbanites and politicians were throwing away the last bits of wilderness and wildlife for a buck.

 

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Towards the end of summer in 1896, Jim Mason, Dawson Charlie and George Washington Carmack found gold in a tributary of the Klondike River in the Yukon Territory.  With that, one of the greatest gold rushes in history began.

 

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Thousands came.  The easiest way to access Canada’s interior was to take a ferry to Skagway, Alaska and hike over Chilkoot Pass.  This would bring you to the headwaters of the Yukon and from there it is 560 miles to Dawson City.

So many came to find their fortune that they literally had to wait in a line to hike up the pass.

 

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They would have to hike up endless times to get all of their gear up there- and that was just the beginning.  IF they made it through without getting killed off by an avalanche, disease, malnutrition, murder, hypothermia, or heartbreak, then they still had hundreds of miles of rafting to reach Dawson City.  By the time most of them made it to Dawson the good claims were taken.

 

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The Chilkoot Trail and Yukon River are like a museum but way better.  You can still find abandoned canvas boats up by the pass, you can still see abandoned ships and cabins along the Yukon.  I am lucky to be planning a trip that integrates such amazing history with outdoor travel.  If weather and time allow it, after a ferry ride north, we will be starting our Yukon Expedition on the Chilkoot Trail just as the gold miners did.

Hope you’ll follow along on this summer’s adventures.

More Micro Adventures!

I met Pace in 2010 on the Continental Divide Trail.  That was a hard year for northbounders on the CDT because the snow in Colorado was high and hiking northbound you reach the San Juans before much of it can melt.  When Pace, Whitefish and Coach reached the high mountains and discovered them too snowy to cross, they certainly didn’t give up!  Nope.  They just hitched a ride north and hiked the Great Divide Basin which they knew would be snow free and continued flip flopping the trail until they had hiked every single inch of it- which was lucky for me (a southbounder that year) because I got to run into them a couple of times and celebrate Coach’s Triple Crown with him.  Here’s a picture!  (I made his crown out of cardboard duct tape and magazine clippings by headlamp the night before we made it to New Mexico)Coach

My friend Pace has hiked the Long Trail, AT, PCT, CDT, TRT and the Hayduke AND she is heading out on the Grand Enchantment Trail this spring!  Wow!  Pretty amazing.  Pace now lives in Montana and has been going on micro adventures to keep her sane when she is not thru-hiking.  Visit her trailjournals here to read more about her adventures.  And here are some lovely pictures from her micro adventures in Montana:

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Thanks Pace!  Happy Trails!!

 

My most recent micro adventure involved more scrambling around frozen lakes to explore islands, this time with my sister Carolyn and her dog Bishop.  We saw a fox cross the ice, discovered that Bishop is much more coordinated than us when it comes to scrambling down rocks and that we can walk on water.

Here  some pictures below.  Don’t forget to enjoy where you are!  Make life an adventure!

“This is a day in our lives and it will not come again.”

 

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Miles For Breakfast . . . coming to a town near you?

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I have been giving presentations about my solo Brooks Range Traverse this winter in exchange for donations towards my next expedition.  They have been a lot of fun!  This spring I will be in San Diego, New York, Boston, New Hampshire, San Francisco, Seattle and Spokane for various reasons.  If you live near one of those locations and your organization would like to arrange a presentation, let me know!  Send an e-mail to miles4breakfast@gmail.com.

The only firm talks set up are 3 in New Hampshire in May.  Check my website for updates on where I will be speaking here.

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Thru-Hiking “Solo”: On Being Alone

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On my first long distance hike, when I was 18 years old, I carried five different books with me because I was afraid of getting lonely at camp at night.  The idea of sitting in the woods by myself with nothing to entertain me was daunting.  I’d be too scared or lonely or bored!  I was told it was too dangerous to go by myself since I was a young girl . . . but if I didn’t go, if I didn’t start following my dreams now, when would I?

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By the end of that hike I was only 5 chapters through the first book even though I had just spent who knows how many precious calories hauling my library from Massachusetts all the way to Canada through the woods.  The most dangerous foe I encountered were the mosquitoes which were more annoying than dangerous.

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I was surprised to find that there was plenty to keep me occupied at camp at night- setting up my tarp, getting water, washing myself, cooking dinner, studying maps for the next day.  Once all that was done, I was normally ready for bed, or if I wasn’t, the shelter journals were far more entertaining than Herodotus I’m afraid.  (yeah, I was a terrible Classics major).  It was my first time out on my own but I wasn’t all that lonely.  I was surprised to find that I was quite alright.  Quite content.  I was too busy or tired or excited to be afraid.

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The biggest advantage of hiking solo has been that I am completely open to the world- to every person I meet and every opportunity that presents itself.    I found it easier to make more meaningful connections with the people I do meet along the way when I travel alone.  Like in the Brooks Range, I spent more time with the wonderful people I met in the villages that I hiked through which I might not have done had I been with a group.

It is also kinda nice to not have to consult anyone else when making decisions.

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That being said, my most enjoyable thru-hikes have definitely been the ones where I have walked with other thru-hikers.  There is a fantastic community built up around the trails in the lower 48.  A community with its own holidays and traditions and icons.  Meeting other thru-hikers is the best part of thru-hiking.  Although I have headed out onto the long distance trails that I’ve done solo, I often meet other hikers on the way and walk with them for a while.  On the Continental Divide Trail and Arizona Trail, I was lucky enough to meet other hikers on the very first days of the hike and ended up walking the whole way with them.  It was a blast and I made great friends and it meant something to get to share the full experience with other people.  It meant a lot!

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Going on an adventure with the right people is the best thing in the world, but being on your own isn’t all that bad either.  If I had let a fear of being alone stop me, I wouldn’t have accomplished much.

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Donate A Meal to Miles for Breakfast

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A few people have asked about making donations to help out with the upcoming expedition.  Thank you!  Every little bit helps!  If you’d like to buy a “meal” to help out with the Yukon River trip, I set up a page on the store of my site.  Right here.  Thanks for your support!

 

 

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Microadventures in Southern Arizona

Here are some lovely pictures from Drusilla Montemayor’s microadventures hiking around southern Arizona.

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Dru was one of the first people to walk the Divide.  She hiked from Canada to Mexico fresh out of college in 1981 along what was to become the Continental Divide Trail.  She had to create her own route with forest service maps and government topo maps.

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After the hike she got married and raised 4 kids and also got into endurance horseback riding.  This year she will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  Now that’s living life to the fullest.  Have a great adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail Dru!  Thanks for sending in the photos!!

If you would like to check out Dru’s artwork, visit her site here.

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