December 15, 2017

Tom Huntington about the ” New Trail “

The trail as I know it. Fairbanks to Koyukuk 2015 Iditarod

 Ok, here goes.

Fairbanks to Nenana; distance of 51 miles, from Pike’s to the Nenana railroad depot. The trail is all on the river. Hard, flat, easy going.

From Nenana on, You’re now following the original 1925 serum run “ Great Race of Mercy”.  First, a listing of the original mushers is appropriate: “Wild Bill” Shannon, Dan Green, Johnny Folger, Sam Joeseph, Titus Nickolai, Dan Corning, Edgar Kalland, Harry Pitka, Bill McCarty, Edgar Nollner, George Nollner, Charlie Evans, Tom Patsy, Jack Nicolai “Jackscrew”, Victor Anagick, Myles Gonangnan, Henry Ivanoff, Leonhard Seppala, Charlie Olsen, and Gunnar Kaasen.

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Tom Huntington

 

Nenana to Manley Hot Springs; distance of 85 miles. After crossing the Tanana River and climbing the bank on the far side the original trail begins. It’s 29 miles to Old Minto. All but the 1st two miles is groomed, as it gets traveled a lot. Plus it’s one of the main training trails for the area mushers. It follows the Parks Hwy for about two miles, then along the powerline and railroad right of way. At about 7 miles the trail turns left away from the railroad tracks. It’s 22 miles to Old Minto. Follows an old cat trail, then lakes and flats with little portages in between.

After Old Minto, the trail gets narrow (lack of use). It’s 5 miles to Tanana slough, cross to the left and start the portage to the Old Tolovana roadhouse. It’s 18 miles of narrow portage with only a 2 mile old slough starting at 1.5 miles and a lake about 3 miles shy of the roadhouse. A little technical right before the roadhouse. Immediately after the roadhouse you’ll cross the mouth of the Tolovana River, again to the left and climbing the cut bank on the far side. The 1st mile after is good, the 2nd is not so good. It follows a creek uphill, not straight, maybe a little glaciered, and maybe an overflow spot depending on the temperature. It levels off and fairly good going for 8 miles. 10 miles after crossing the Tolovana, you’ll connect to Charlie and Robin Boulding’s trail to Manley, a distance of 23 miles. You can count on this being a well maintained trail.

Manley Hot Springs to Tanana; distance of 66 miles. Manley is home to Joee and Pam Redington. Joee is champion, and well respected by all. The trail leaving Manley follows the road to the landing on the Tanana river. It’s back to river running. The 1st 44 miles is good trail. You’ll probably start coming to section of “sand in snow”, hard drifts, glare ice, good going, more glare ice, and then even rocks on the bar before the Yukon River crossing at the old”mission”. On the road the last 2 miles into town.

Tanana, home of musher name like Erhart, Moore, Roberts, and home of the TV show Yukon Men.

Tanana to Ruby; distance of 114 miles. The trail from Tanana downstream is usually good, but can be hard drifts if it’s been windy. 18 miles past Tanana is Roy Folger’s camp(active). At 60 miles is the Kokrine Hills Bible Camp(active). Good trail, except the crossings at 20 and 37 mile were rough earlier in the season. Probably drifted smoother now. From the bible camp to Ruby is 54 miles. Good trail except there was a 4-5 mile section of beach glacier off and on, starting about 5 miles after the bible camp.

Ruby to Galena; distance of 51 miles. Note on Ruby: home of the “Yukon Fox”, Emmitt Peters.

The 1st 7 miles out of Ruby is good. The next 10-12 is not as good, wind blown with minimal snow and ice. From the mouth of the Yuki river(19 miles from Ruby) to Galena is really good trail. The check point at Galena is located at the GILA school on the old military base this year.

Galena to Huslia; distance of 84 miles. Note on Galena: home to the late Carl Huntington, the only musher to be champion to Iditarod, Fur Rondy, and the Open North Amercian 

The trail leaving Galena follows lakes and old sloughs for about 5 miles then climbs the bank at Crow creek to begin the overland to Huslia. At 10 miles you’ll cross Bear creek, at about 13 miles you’ll cross a very big lake(Hourglass). Lakes and flats to about 19-20 miles then you’ll start travelling through jack spruce country. At 29 miles you’ll cross a small creek(Natlaratlen), at about 33 miles you’ll start getting to more lakes. At 34.5 miles, there’s a shelter cabin.the Galena to Huslia trail. It’s very bumpy whenever you are not on a lake (maybe 2/3 of the trail is bumps, 1/3 is awesome flat trail across lakes). The shelter cabin is about 37 miles from the Galena checkpoint, and is ready to go. We cut some wood, and there was some already there, dry and ready. It’s on the north side of a pretty big lake. Here some pictures from the Shelter cabin courtesy of Tim Bodoney.

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Shelter Cabin outside

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Shelter Cabin inside

 

From there it’s more lakes and jack spruce until about 48 miles from Galena, where you’ll come to the Dulbi river for the 1st time. The 3rd time you come to it, you’ll cross and begin the portage to the Koyukuk river. You’re now at 58 miles, you’ll travel upriver for 3 miles climbing the bank on the right. There’s an old shelter cabin there. Wilson Sam’s place. It’s 21 miles to Huslia, all on lakes, flats, and tundra, with small portages .

Note on Huslia; home of the Huslia Hustlers. Ground zero of mushing legends. Names like Jimmy Huntington, George Attla, Cue Biefelt, Bergman Sam, Bobby and Warner.  Heck,at one time everyone had good dogs here. This towns champions, used only the best of what everyone had. Ask to see some of the private home trophy collections, it’s impressive.

Huslia to Koyukuk; distance of 84 miles. After leaving Huslia, you’ll follow the Koyukuk river downstream. At 8 miles you’ll climb the bank on the right. After lakes and flats you’ll climb to begin the Roundabout Mt portage. At 17.5 miles, you’ll get back to the Koyukuk river, Butch Yaska’s cabin is located here. You’ll drop onto the river and go upstream for 2 miles and cross to begin the portage to “over the hill portage lake”. 1st leaving the river here is narrow, hopefully the trail crew will cut a few trees out of the way to make it safer. From there it’s about 13-14 miles across tundra, flats,lakes, and swamp to the lake. Leaving the lake at 34 mile, there’s a little climb. You’ll travel through some burnt country, then jack spruce country. At about 47 miles you’ll get to a fair sized lake, at 51 miles you’ll get to a really big lake(Coffee Can Lake). About 4 miles past CCL is Louie lake. If it’s windy out, usually it’s not as bad about midway between the lakes. At 58 miles you’ll cross a small creek, again at 61 miles but you’ll follow it for a little ways and cross. At 63 miles you’ll come to a lake with a shelter cabin on the far side. Leaving here, you’ll portage out to the Koyukuk river at 66 miles from Huslia. You’ll go downstream for almost 3 miles and climb the bank on the left. After a mile you should start following a trappers trail for about 4 miles, coming back to the river for the last time. It’s 10 miles to Koyukuk, all river running.

Now, you’re back in country that you know. And I’m now out of my backyard.

Note, river running can be a lot of things; easy going and boring, downright nasty and miserable, calm, windy, drifts. Traveling as they are this year, if it’s windy it’ll probably be from the east or north. Yukon(east) and Koyukuk river valley(east or north).

All this writing makes me want to go out and play. Hopefully, we’ll bump into each other out there somewhere.

The above is written by Tom! VERY MUCH appreciated to give such a great insight. I hope to fill this in with some pictures along the way of the places Tom is describing. It is going to be an honour for all of us to travel in his back yard!