7 January 2007: Fairbanks

Planning (lots of this too)

Jon Holmgren

It‚s the first week in January and the planning process for our expedition is picking up speed. We are starting to realize that in just two and a half months we will be on the trail. It‚s exciting as well as a bit scary.

First, I think of all the things that have to be done before I leave. This includes projects in the machine shop promised before spring and truck maintenance to be done so that if my wife‚s car breaks down while we are gone she can use my truck. I need to make sure that the fuel and propane tanks at the house are sufficiently full. How am I going to deal with the water system in the shop? Should I empty it and let the place freeze or should I set the Toyo oil stoves on low to keep it warm, relying on renters and friends to check on it and call my brother if something goes wrong? Taxes have to be done, as we will be on the road on April 15th. Will there be enough money to pay the bills While I am gone? Being gone from home for an extended period doesn‚t mean that things stop and wait at home. I‚m not sure there is enough time.

Then there is the trip planning. It started two years ago when we first decided that we wanted to do a trip in Canada. For a long time we let the idea percolate, thinking of possibilities. Who would make up the group? Did we have goal in mind? Was this a strictly recreational trip or would fun and science be mixed with loftier goals of reaching some understanding of fundamental changes in the arctic? Did we want to pursue funding for the trip or pay our own way? Publish a book of pictures and experiences? As we have neared the departure date, planning and preparation have become more practical.

My end of the preparations is generally logistics and equipment. At this point I start making lists and checking off things that have been taken care of. I go to my office and dig out the folder in my filing cabinet marked field packing lists. It has lists of general equipment required for all sorts of trips I've taken. The earliest is a climbing equipment list from the early 80‚s when I was spending as much time as possible in the mountains. It has things like Fabiano Double boots and spare Stephanson tent poles. Some are science lists which include everything from a soldering iron to the latest version of software to download data loggers left in the field from last year. Still more recent are lists for fall hunting trips which have spare stainless outboard props and maintenance supplies for the cabin up the river.

Reading through the old lists brings back memories of friends and experiences. The emergency white gas stove that I always carry came in handy when the cook kit fell off of the last sled in the line and was lost one late November north of the Brooks Range. On the same trip after a long cold day of snow machining we all reached for the same thing once camp was comfortable; a bottle of Ibuprofen. My sleeping bag, purchased from a friend of a friend who had some sort of connection with North Face, was at one time a bright and shining new Tangerine Dream full of future nights in exotic places. Now it is stained and experienced, but still a great piece of gear. The trip when we dumped a huge Yamaha snow machine into the Toolik River at thirty below zero reminds me to put a large rope and come along on the new list.

There is a list of equipment that needs to be built, repaired or just found so that we know that it still exists. I am starting to build the covered, insulated sled that will be an office in the evenings, a science sled during the days and an emergency shelter in time of need. The cooking kit that has served us admirably for the last few big trips needs revamping and some new ideas for dish storage. I remember something being wrong with the woodstove, but can‚t recall just what it was. Probably needs some welding. We are going to be using action packers on the sleds to haul fuel jugs and food boxes. They need to be purchased and modified so that they can be tied on. I am sure that the tents need sewing somewhere but we will have to drag them out and set them up to figure out where.

The lists go on and on, but that is the beauty of lists. You just cross out what is done and work on the next few things until its time to go.





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