Heli-Skiing the Chugach: Day II

Day II: Thursday, March 15

As I write this, the sun is softly illuminating the city of Edmonton and Canadians are scurrying to work. My hurry is as frantic, but not to clock in; I’m rushing to reach Alaska to clock vertical on my skis. 58 travel hours by car will end with me in a helicopter, being whisked to the untracked lines of Alaska’s Chugach mountains.

Doing this trip on the cheap means sleeping the car and subsisting of a diet of meal bars, raisins, and rice cakes. It’s taken roughly 38,000 miles of long distance roadtrips to perfect the art of living from a car, but traveling in the frozen north throws a new dimension to the mix. I wake up with a zero degree bag over my face, my late night attempt to keep the roadside lights and sub-freezing temps out. Sleep came in two hour increments; awake, reposition, sleep. My aching legs are thrown over the steering wheel, toes jammed against the windshield and freezing. I pull them in close to me to warm up before sluggishly unzipping my bag to pull on boots.

There’s not much to do to get ready for a new day when you’re on the road. The agenda is to drive as far as possible. There’s little reason to comb your hair or get fueled up for an active day- just grab a handful of raisins and swig of icy water, key in the ignition and be on your way. And when you’re driving through this part of British Columbia, there’s even less reason to stop- between here and the Yukon border, it’s largely a great big prairie- which is probably why they named the main city up here “Grande Prairie.” The exception is the picturesque Muncho Lake, where we were forced to cut our day’s travel short for want of gas.

Muncho Lake- not in the winter
Photo: blog.petaflop.de

That’s the other peculiarity of roadtrips in the frozen north. Travel time is dictated by the frequency of gas stations and their particular preference of varied operating hours. Fueling opportunities occur roughly every 150 miles within the hours of 8am and 6pm, Monday or Tuesday through Saturday, if you’re lucky. With an uncertain amount of distance to cover to the next stop and only half a tank left of gas left (anything under a quarter of a tank become refuel-worthy), the Mazda was pulled over in front of a rustic lodge on the now frozen Muncho Lake. Thermometer reading: 12 degrees. Pulling up my zero-degree bag and settling in for the first of the night’s two hour sleep increments…

Today’s wrap up:

Just shy of 800 miles (797), cut the day short because of needing gas. Today I worked on knitting a beanie for Alaska and finishing a friendship bracelet I started on The Most Epic Trip. Not much to report when you are traversing a big ol’ prairie…

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