Note: This information is also available as part of the PDF file following the Detailed Itinerary
This is a participatory winter trip and though not overly strenuous, clients should be moderately physically fit and not averse to cold temperatures as this is an arctic environment. Clients are provided supplementary arctic clothing and boots, and while comfort is our overriding concern, by nature of our activities we will be outdoors a considerable amount of time. Dog mushing does require some agility but is not overly strenuous, though some of the optional activities such as cross country skiing and snowshoeing can be if pursued vigorously. Those not wishing to emphasize “driving their own team”, may opt to ride in the sled basket. We will also be traveling by bush plane to and from the Skwentna Roadhouse Lodge, and those apprehensive about small plane travel will want to take this into account.
Always a subject of great interest and occasionally, a few choice words. By early March, Old Man Winter has just begun loosening his hold on things, but has been known to come back with a good swipe or two, to remind us just why bananas don’t grow very well here. Temperatures could be in the upper thirties, or, they could be minus thirty. Most typical would be from ten to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, generally being much milder near the ocean where we will be mushing, and potentially colder at the remote interior lodge, with the coldest being during the often cloudless nights. Being well prepared is of course the key, allowing one to enjoy why winter is actually the favorite season of many. Even if these temperatures seem beyond comprehension, you’ll be surprised what good equipment will do for you, though we promise that you won’t win any fashion contests. Widely available chemical heat packs are great for those prone to cold feet or fingers. Weather is of course a factor in the flying portions of the trip, and it is advisable to allow an extra day in Anchorage in case of possible delays. Besides, when was the last time you had being trapped in a remote winter cabin in Alaska as an excuse . . .
Because this is a winter trip and due to the fact that conditions this time of year can on occasion be severe, personal clothing should be chosen carefully to ensure comfort. Adventure Alaska will provide you with the supplementary arctic outer wear to complement the basic clothing that you probably already have, or might need to supply. We provide the following: arctic coveralls (very stylish!) for the very coldest weather; arctic pak boots for the feet; arctic mittens; and a cold weather hat. Items that you will need to supply include the following:
Clothing:Two to three changes of warm but versatile clothing are recommended (please refer to luggage restrictions in a separate section) which can be layered if needed. This is a time to throw thoughts of fashion to the wind and consider above all else, the function of each item. Besides, if your stylish in the Bush in winter, you’ll stick out like a sore (and cold!) thumb. Relatively loose clothing is warmer than skin tight, with wool or polypropylene pile pants and sweaters ideal. Long underwear should be of medium weight and preferably polypropylene. Several pairs (to allow for changes) of heavy wool and/or polypro socks will help keep your feet happy, and work best if layered.
Outerwear: A good, warm winter jacket is a must, with down and some of the synthetics having the best warmth-to-weight ratio. This, coupled with sweaters or pullovers and other clothing, should be sufficient and allow needed flexibility for most of our activities, with the coveralls handy for those times when it is colder or we are inactive. A medium weight hat or stocking cap that covers the ears is a must as well as a pair or two of medium weight gloves; an additional scarf is also preferred by many.
Footwear: Sorel-style arctic pak boots are provided for each participant if needed for our outdoor activities (please specify men’s shoe size in advance). If you already have your own they probably fit well and you should consider bringing them. Those subject to chronically cold feet (and hands) might want to consider a supply of the disposable chemical heat packets sold at many sporting goods stores. Footwear for indoors and travel should be comfortable and warm, many preferring to throw in an additional pair of down booties or slippers to lounge around in.
Sleeping “Equipment”: Most prefer to sleep in their long underwear as opposed to pajamas (after all, you want to dress the part).
Miscellaneous: A good flashlight or headlamp is important; water bottle (quart); sunglasses (UV cutting); camera; chemical hand/foot warmers (available at most sporting goods stores). Earplugs are also helpful, as individual bedtimes and noise levels can vary considerably.
Soft-sided suitcases or duffel bags are preferred. As small airplanes have limited space, total amount of personal gear for the trip should not fill more than approximately two to three standard grocery sacks (four to six cubic feet); suitcases, extra clothing, etc., can be stored in Anchorage during the trip. A small daypack is recommended for in the van and on the dogsled, for items you might want handy such as a camera and water bottle.
Accommodations: Include log cabins in Hope, a lodge, and the Roadhouse in Swentna with a variety of cabins/outbuilding. All established facilities are set up for double occupancy but the remote sites will sometimes necessitate more of a “slumber party” approach, flexibility being the rule in the Bush. Shared baths are the only option, with toilet facilities while mushing decidedly “rustic”, either the woods, or the tried and true, non-running water type… (yes, outhouse –part of the experience!).
Insurance: Health: Adventure Alaska cannot require participants to provide proof of insurance but it is more than strongly recommended to retain and review your personal policy; NOTE: Adventure Alaska cannot be expected to and will not assume payment liability for medical care or treatment of any kind. Traveler’s: It is likewise strongly urged to carry traveler’s insurance in case you have to cancel or cut short your trip for any reason as the cancellation policy is quite strict. Or, though remote, the possibility exists also of a delay in our return to Anchorage on the last day due to weather. Cancellation of activities or additional costs incurred due to weather or safety concerns will not necessarily result in refund for that segment, and may require additional payment.
Pre/Post-Trip Lodging Many types are available in Anchorage as are independant extensions after the trip. Please advise us well in advance so that we are able to guarantee suitable accommodations. Do remember that the bush plane flight to and from the Skwentna area is dependant on the vagaries of weather —an extra day should be considered at the end of the trip before unchangeable travel arrangements.
Suggested Reading The Far North is a story teller’s dream of history, wildness, and people. Each client’s appreciation will be immeasurably heightened by gaining some background beforehand of Alaska and the areas visited, as well as detailed information on the history of sled dogs and mushing. A wide selection of books and information is available from Alaska Geographic: 810 E 9th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501; (866) 257-2757; www.alaskageographic.org and also from our local bookseller, Title Wave Books, in Anchorage – www.wavebooks.com; 907-278-9283. Also, the Iditarod’s official website – www.Iditarod.com – has a book list which is quite extensive.
Adventure Travel: is just that! We pride ourselves in being able to give our guests what the large tour companies (i.e. Princess, Holland America, etc.) do not – a chance to visit some of the out-of-the-way places, meet the true locals and support the local economies. Since most everyone has a different definition of just what is adventure, we ask that you consider carefully the type of trip you’re taking and the level of comfort you expect. We very intentionally feature smaller destinations that have not been developed to handle large numbers, and as such do not promise the level of amenities found at larger facilities. We believe that this is integral to experiencing a more “authentic” Alaska, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback from our past clients makes us confident that we’re succeeding in showing an Alaska that most visitors rarely enjoy. Adventure Alaska trips aren’t for everybody and we’ll gladly recommend a competitor rather than have you take a trip that you might not fully enjoy. Our only requirement: A keen spirit of adventure and true desire to appreciate what is unique about these lands and their peoples. You’ll be rewarded with a personal experience that simply can’t be had on a cursory cruise tour, designed to handle many thousands at a time.
Tipping: We are often asked about tipping, and it is frankly difficult to come up with an adequate response. When it comes to gratuities to your tour guide, generally speaking, we feel it is entirely up to each individual, as each traveler’s means and desire to tip varies. We do believe however that tipping encourages excellence and rewards a job well done, so with this in mind, we support the concept of tipping. And because we’ve been asked so often what an appropriate tip is, a possible guideline for tipping your guide is $10-15 per person per day. Please note that all restaurant tips for meals during the trip will be handled by Adventure Alaska. Tipping to outside vendors/guides (i.e. ice-trekking guides, pilots, boat captains, etc.) is at the discretion of those partaking in the individual services, and again, is highly recommended.
The Electronic Age: Items such as cell phones, iPods and laptop computers, though integral in many of our respective lives, can intrude upon the enjoyment of others trying to "get away from it all", and so we ask that their use be considered and discrete. Many of the places we go are out of cell range, or have proprietary networks not always compatible with national carriers. Wireless connection locations are also surprisingly infrequent. Some locations still have satellite-based or very limited phone capacity, and are unable to accommodate non-emergency public use. What better excuse could there be for not getting a hold of the office–-and remember, it is vacation!
Smoking: Is not permitted in the vans, nor inside most of the accommodations/restaurants, though one can certainly do so out of doors.
Food/Restaurants: During the itineraries, we provide 3 meals a day, with snacks available in the van (alcoholic beverages not included). We make no pretense promising “gourmet” meals, as food is not the focus of our types of trips (—but folks do comment that the meals are exceptional given the great distance groceries must travel!). Often we eat at the establishment where we are staying for the night, and as these are often somewhat remote locations, menu selection is sometimes limited. Meals are hearty (we do get “complaints” about the huge portions in Alaska) and sometimes include local fare such as salmon, halibut or reindeer. While camping, the guide prepares all meals, though assistance is not always refused . . .
Bathrooms: For our "tours" full bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers are available each night, with facilities occasionally down the hall, or in a separate building. For the "adventures", it's the tried and true outhouse facilities while camping, and hot showers and toilets that flush when we're not "roughing it"!