Outdoors & Recreation

Booty Road Part III

Written by
Denis Douglas

As some readers may know, I walked the 1,100 mile Iditarod Trail from Knik to Nome a number of years ago to raise medical funds for a friend with a terminal brain tumor. (See LFM March/April and May/June 2017 issues to read Booty Road Parts I & II.) A few years later I had another reason to walk to Nome and raise money for a worthy group of people.  

September 11, 2001, is a day that none of us will forget. I was in a remote location without radio or TV communications. My first vision of this horrific event in our history was viewing a video recap of various heart-tugging images about six weeks after the Twin Towers fell. As many of us were, I was moved to do something; I decided to walk the Iditarod Trail again to raise funds for the Leary Firefighters Foundation and other charities. 

First I need to clear up the reason for calling these stories Booty Road. It was pointed out to me that booty is usually associated with a person’s posterior, butt, and/or hind-end, as in shake your booty. That is not what I had in mind. I noted in Part I of Booty Road, that I often saw dog booties along the trail. Mushers put booties on the feet of their dogs when it gets super cold or when sharp ice might cause injuries. These booties are made of soft material in a broad range of colors as well as a variety of camo patterns. I couldn’t help collecting the colorful booties as I walked. 

During my first Iditarod Trail trip, I decided that if I ever walked it again, I would improve my gear, particularly the sled. I looked through several sporting goods stores in Anchorage, before I blundered into Plaschem Supply & Consulting in Wasilla, now known as Arctic Fiberglass. After talking to the wonderful people there and looking at the products they had to offer, I asked what the price would be for a seven-foot-long fiberglass sled (also known as an Akhio). Since I was doing the trip for charity, they donated the sled. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated their gesture of support!

My next stop was Alaska Tent and Tarp. I dragged my new sled into the store and asked if they could build a tent on it. I think I may have been the first person to request a tent like this. After a little head scratching, they indicated that it was possible and we discussed the design. I sat in the sled and asked them to measure it so I could sit up. The cost was $1800.00 to build and attach the tent. I said, “OK, call me when it’s ready.” About a week later I picked up my sled and it was everything I could have ever hoped for. If you need a tent, go see the people at Alaska Tent and Tarp.  

Next I ordered a heavy duty military style harness, aluminum drag poles, and the attachment hardware for the sled. I built wood laminated runners about an inch high and attached them to the bottom of the sled. Then I attached aluminum rails to the bottom of the wooden runners to affix ultrahigh-density polyethylene plastic runners. This kept the sled out of the overflow, most of the time, and made it much easier to pull. Similar hardware is used on the bottom of dog sleds.  

The sled weighed about 40 pounds without the tent, runners, and harness gear. With my non-inflatable/self-inflating mattress (they don’t inflate at 30 below), sleeping bag, Coleman stove and fuel, freeze-dried meals, snowshoes, and everything else needed for the trip, the sled weighed in at a little over 100 pounds. Now, a hundred pounds isn’t much if it’s on a dog sled, or in the trunk of your car, but when you have to pull it yourself, the weight becomes a little more noticeable! In the words of one of my friends in Galena, who pulled my first sled about 50 feet on the Yukon River, “You have to be a mule to pull this son of a @#$%.” After spending about two days dragging the sled around the neighborhood, it was time for my wife to drop me off at Big Lake, just outside of Anchorage. 

It was a bright sunny day on February 17, 2002, when I began my second Iditarod Trail hike. Even after everything that happened on the first trip to Nome, I was excited to start another adventure for good causes. There was a lot of activity because of the start of a snow machine race. Knowing what lay ahead was frightening. Previous experiences proved I could expect a variety of challenges. I was fighting a battle between what was left of my gray matter and the excitement of adventure. As usual with me, logic lost and supporting charities and my yearning for adventure won. After the last snow machine left the starting line, I said goodbye to my wife and headed out across Big Lake for Nome.

It was a bright sunny day on February 17, 2002, when I began my second Iditarod Trail hike. Even after everything that happened on the first trip to Nome, I was excited to start another adventure for good causes.

It’s incredible how fast one can transition from civilization to utter wilderness. I could hardly wait to get pooped out so I could try out my new home away from home. Since this was my first day, and it was late when I began walking, it wasn’t long before that opportunity came.

The modified sled worked out better than I anticipated. Since I was able to keep my bed made, I wouldn’t have to deal with trying to inflate my non-inflating/self-inflating air mattress anymore. During the next few days I made some adjustments and got used to my new equipment. It was an immediate relief not having to mess with setting up a tent every night as I did during my first trip. However, no matter how comfortable I tried to make myself, walking the Iditarod Trail is still an energy-consuming undertaking involving uncomfortable situations. 

When it’s cold outside, it can take a bit of fiddling just to get a stove lit. Sometimes I would have to hold the Peak stove under my coat until it warmed enough to light. Just pumping the stove would sometimes result in frozen fingers. While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about matches. There are many brands on the market and I think it’s fair to say that about half of them are fireproof. It’s a good idea to check your matches outside in the cold before including them in your winter gear. Since lighters just don’t work at 30 below, make sure your matches will!

The trail from Big Lake to Skwentna was relatively uneventful. I crossed fairly flat stretches to the Little Susitna River and on to the Big Susitna River just below the Yentna River. We have property about seven miles up the Yentna River and I would have spent a night at our cabin if it weren’t up a steep incline of deep snow. The trail continues up the Yentna River, past several fishing lodges, Yentna Station, Lake Creek, and other places before reaching the Skwentna Roadhouse where I stayed and visited one night. After a wonderful breakfast with my friends it was time to reluctantly say goodbye.  

As I made my way up into the Alaska Range through deep snow, I came upon a man I will call Scott, not any brighter than myself, who was competing in an ultra-sport race. With my long trail snowshoes, I was doing all right in the snow. Scott’s snowshoes were just slightly longer than his feet and were essentially useless for the snow conditions. He was also carrying a bicycle over his shoulder! He was glad to follow me while I broke trail. Before long Scott decided that placing his bike on my sled for me to carry would be a good idea. I did not agree. Scott didn’t speak English well and couldn’t understand my problem with his line of thinking. After that, I stayed well ahead of him until I had to stop for the night.  

I learned that some of the people who competed in the ultra-sport race didn’t carry enough gear to take care of themselves in the variety of situations they might encounter. My sled was equipped with a small, collapsible, vestibule for storing gear at night. It was too short for anyone to sleep in, so I cut a hole in one end so Scott could sleep with most of his body inside. It was tight quarters for both of us and he may have been breaking his race rules by depending on me for help.

Denis with his custom tent and sled.


The next morning I was on the trail before daylight. I had to be fast on my feet to beat Scott out of camp. He still thought his idea to have me carry his bike was valid. The wind was blowing and neither of us were having very much fun. I could hear him yell occasionally, “Dennneeeess, wait for meeeee.”   Gradually the wind diminished and the snow didn’t seem as deep. Throughout the day, I would stay far enough ahead of Scott that I could stop and rest or just drink a little water and eat an energy bar. He would just about catch me and I would once again break trail for him. “Denneess wait for meeee.” Shortly after reaching the summit of Rainy Pass, the trail became hard-packed so I could shed my snowshoes. I was making better time and it wasn’t long before Scott came up behind me on his bike. I moved off the trail so he could pass, and as he went by he said, “See you later, Denneess.”

No items found.

Booty Road Part III

Outdoors & Recreation

Author

Denis Douglas

As some readers may know, I walked the 1,100 mile Iditarod Trail from Knik to Nome a number of years ago to raise medical funds for a friend with a terminal brain tumor. (See LFM March/April and May/June 2017 issues to read Booty Road Parts I & II.) A few years later I had another reason to walk to Nome and raise money for a worthy group of people.  

September 11, 2001, is a day that none of us will forget. I was in a remote location without radio or TV communications. My first vision of this horrific event in our history was viewing a video recap of various heart-tugging images about six weeks after the Twin Towers fell. As many of us were, I was moved to do something; I decided to walk the Iditarod Trail again to raise funds for the Leary Firefighters Foundation and other charities. 

First I need to clear up the reason for calling these stories Booty Road. It was pointed out to me that booty is usually associated with a person’s posterior, butt, and/or hind-end, as in shake your booty. That is not what I had in mind. I noted in Part I of Booty Road, that I often saw dog booties along the trail. Mushers put booties on the feet of their dogs when it gets super cold or when sharp ice might cause injuries. These booties are made of soft material in a broad range of colors as well as a variety of camo patterns. I couldn’t help collecting the colorful booties as I walked. 

During my first Iditarod Trail trip, I decided that if I ever walked it again, I would improve my gear, particularly the sled. I looked through several sporting goods stores in Anchorage, before I blundered into Plaschem Supply & Consulting in Wasilla, now known as Arctic Fiberglass. After talking to the wonderful people there and looking at the products they had to offer, I asked what the price would be for a seven-foot-long fiberglass sled (also known as an Akhio). Since I was doing the trip for charity, they donated the sled. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated their gesture of support!

My next stop was Alaska Tent and Tarp. I dragged my new sled into the store and asked if they could build a tent on it. I think I may have been the first person to request a tent like this. After a little head scratching, they indicated that it was possible and we discussed the design. I sat in the sled and asked them to measure it so I could sit up. The cost was $1800.00 to build and attach the tent. I said, “OK, call me when it’s ready.” About a week later I picked up my sled and it was everything I could have ever hoped for. If you need a tent, go see the people at Alaska Tent and Tarp.  

Next I ordered a heavy duty military style harness, aluminum drag poles, and the attachment hardware for the sled. I built wood laminated runners about an inch high and attached them to the bottom of the sled. Then I attached aluminum rails to the bottom of the wooden runners to affix ultrahigh-density polyethylene plastic runners. This kept the sled out of the overflow, most of the time, and made it much easier to pull. Similar hardware is used on the bottom of dog sleds.  

The sled weighed about 40 pounds without the tent, runners, and harness gear. With my non-inflatable/self-inflating mattress (they don’t inflate at 30 below), sleeping bag, Coleman stove and fuel, freeze-dried meals, snowshoes, and everything else needed for the trip, the sled weighed in at a little over 100 pounds. Now, a hundred pounds isn’t much if it’s on a dog sled, or in the trunk of your car, but when you have to pull it yourself, the weight becomes a little more noticeable! In the words of one of my friends in Galena, who pulled my first sled about 50 feet on the Yukon River, “You have to be a mule to pull this son of a @#$%.” After spending about two days dragging the sled around the neighborhood, it was time for my wife to drop me off at Big Lake, just outside of Anchorage. 

It was a bright sunny day on February 17, 2002, when I began my second Iditarod Trail hike. Even after everything that happened on the first trip to Nome, I was excited to start another adventure for good causes. There was a lot of activity because of the start of a snow machine race. Knowing what lay ahead was frightening. Previous experiences proved I could expect a variety of challenges. I was fighting a battle between what was left of my gray matter and the excitement of adventure. As usual with me, logic lost and supporting charities and my yearning for adventure won. After the last snow machine left the starting line, I said goodbye to my wife and headed out across Big Lake for Nome.

It was a bright sunny day on February 17, 2002, when I began my second Iditarod Trail hike. Even after everything that happened on the first trip to Nome, I was excited to start another adventure for good causes.

It’s incredible how fast one can transition from civilization to utter wilderness. I could hardly wait to get pooped out so I could try out my new home away from home. Since this was my first day, and it was late when I began walking, it wasn’t long before that opportunity came.

The modified sled worked out better than I anticipated. Since I was able to keep my bed made, I wouldn’t have to deal with trying to inflate my non-inflating/self-inflating air mattress anymore. During the next few days I made some adjustments and got used to my new equipment. It was an immediate relief not having to mess with setting up a tent every night as I did during my first trip. However, no matter how comfortable I tried to make myself, walking the Iditarod Trail is still an energy-consuming undertaking involving uncomfortable situations. 

When it’s cold outside, it can take a bit of fiddling just to get a stove lit. Sometimes I would have to hold the Peak stove under my coat until it warmed enough to light. Just pumping the stove would sometimes result in frozen fingers. While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about matches. There are many brands on the market and I think it’s fair to say that about half of them are fireproof. It’s a good idea to check your matches outside in the cold before including them in your winter gear. Since lighters just don’t work at 30 below, make sure your matches will!

The trail from Big Lake to Skwentna was relatively uneventful. I crossed fairly flat stretches to the Little Susitna River and on to the Big Susitna River just below the Yentna River. We have property about seven miles up the Yentna River and I would have spent a night at our cabin if it weren’t up a steep incline of deep snow. The trail continues up the Yentna River, past several fishing lodges, Yentna Station, Lake Creek, and other places before reaching the Skwentna Roadhouse where I stayed and visited one night. After a wonderful breakfast with my friends it was time to reluctantly say goodbye.  

As I made my way up into the Alaska Range through deep snow, I came upon a man I will call Scott, not any brighter than myself, who was competing in an ultra-sport race. With my long trail snowshoes, I was doing all right in the snow. Scott’s snowshoes were just slightly longer than his feet and were essentially useless for the snow conditions. He was also carrying a bicycle over his shoulder! He was glad to follow me while I broke trail. Before long Scott decided that placing his bike on my sled for me to carry would be a good idea. I did not agree. Scott didn’t speak English well and couldn’t understand my problem with his line of thinking. After that, I stayed well ahead of him until I had to stop for the night.  

I learned that some of the people who competed in the ultra-sport race didn’t carry enough gear to take care of themselves in the variety of situations they might encounter. My sled was equipped with a small, collapsible, vestibule for storing gear at night. It was too short for anyone to sleep in, so I cut a hole in one end so Scott could sleep with most of his body inside. It was tight quarters for both of us and he may have been breaking his race rules by depending on me for help.

Denis with his custom tent and sled.


The next morning I was on the trail before daylight. I had to be fast on my feet to beat Scott out of camp. He still thought his idea to have me carry his bike was valid. The wind was blowing and neither of us were having very much fun. I could hear him yell occasionally, “Dennneeeess, wait for meeeee.”   Gradually the wind diminished and the snow didn’t seem as deep. Throughout the day, I would stay far enough ahead of Scott that I could stop and rest or just drink a little water and eat an energy bar. He would just about catch me and I would once again break trail for him. “Denneess wait for meeee.” Shortly after reaching the summit of Rainy Pass, the trail became hard-packed so I could shed my snowshoes. I was making better time and it wasn’t long before Scott came up behind me on his bike. I moved off the trail so he could pass, and as he went by he said, “See you later, Denneess.”

No items found.

Read This Next