16 March 2007


They are off!

The 2007 SnowStar Barrenlands Traverse departed Fairbanks at 9 AM today in beautiful clear cold sunny skies. Here is a soundclip from their first evening in camp and their first field dispatch sent via sattelite phone:

SoundClip from Camp 1: A Greeting from Matthew (click here)

16 March 2007:  Olympia Creek Cabin near Chena Hot Springs, Alaska

Minimum:  -21ºF (-29C)    Maximum: +5ºF  (-15C)

65º 07’N, 146º17’       123 km (77 miles)

Wildlife:  1 dead raven; lots of moose and wolf tracks.

Amazingly, we left on time at 9:00 AM!  Family and co-workers came by in the chill morning to see us off.  Robinson from the Fairbanks News Miner was there to report on the departure.  We left with 7 snowmobiles and 10 sleds.  The two extra snow mobiles were driven by Dick Flaherty, who runs Apocalypse Sewing, and David Andersen, the SnowSTAR-2007 base camp manager.  Dick sewed up all the sled covers for the expedition and is an avid snowmobiler himself.

Our route was on the Quest Trail, a 1000 mile dog mushing race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The race was 2 weeks ago. It was won this year by Lance Mackey in 9 days. That’s almost as fast as we could travel it on a snowmobile. The trail is marked by wood stakes painted purple, orange and yellow.  It was a wonderful day of sun, a little bit of wind, and great traveling conditions.

Wooohooo! We’re underway, and it feels great! After all the planning, preparation, anticipation, and a little trepidation, we’re moving towards Baker Lake. The snowmachines are running nicely, the sleds are following smoothly, and everyone is smiling. Even the hotdog cookers strapped to the mufflers worked great, giving us hot burritos for lunch.

I have to say, it seemed a blur—last min. packing and we threw up the door of the CRREL motershop drove out the machines into the cold bright sunshine with whisps of ice-fog in the air. We focused on hooking our sleds—two behind each sled.  I was tempted to use bare fingers but mostly resisted—but too easy to frost nip them. A number had come to see us off. I saw my son – and handed him my camera.  I gave my wife a hug and we were off!  Across the road, onto the Chena River.  A couple of bends later our seven machines and 11 sleds stopped.  We adjusted our goggles and are in a world of our own.

Enough for now.  Tomorrow we go over Rosebud and Eagle Summits, some of the largest mountains on the trip.

Mathew Sturm







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