When you think of a highway, you likely picture a paved four-lane road with a shoulder and a few rest stops. Late August, I traveled the Dalton Highway for the first time, all 415 miles of it, on my way from Fairbanks to Deadhorse. It rained and snowed and we cracked an axel somewhere after Atigun Pass, where a semi towing another semi fishtailed on the ice and the path in front of us became single track, instead of highway. We crept along, sometimes unable to go more than 10 mph, for two long days. Rutted. Potholed. Slick as melting ice cream. That's how I would have described the road. A week later, on the way back, the road had been graded, the sun shone through blue sky, and the Dalton seemed broad and expansive—downright welcoming, even. Both directions held me captive in different ways.
Justin Savidis greets me (and a handful of other summer mushers) at the Ididaride Sled Dog Tours property in Seward. With his long, light red hair and freckles, he looks more like Opie Taylor than who he is: a rugged, four-time Iditarod competitor working as a guide at the Seavey's kennel. As this issue of the magazine hits newsstands, Justin will be competing against around 80 other mushers, including Mitch and Dallas Seavey (the 2013 and 2014 Iditarod Champions, respectively). But for now, he gives us a tour of the kennel where rows of dogs yip and pull at their chains, attached to their individual houses. The dogs have already run today, and yet the minute the wheeled sled comes into view, the pups leap and cry out like kids in a classroom who want the teacher to call on them.
Make no mistake, the brown bears own Katmai. At best you're a guest on this part of the Alaska Peninsula, at worst you're dinner. Warnings aside, if you're one of those adventurous souls who can't imagine heading to Alaska without seeing one of its most famous residents, Katmai guarantees you won't leave disappointed—as long as you go during the summer salmon run.
I owned a couple of huskies once. Chance was sharp-featured with a well-defined, black-and-white coat and steely-eyed blues with mischief in them. Though she was small and compact, a Mini-Cooper of a dog, she managed to destroy a couch, a linoleum floor, and a door—all in one day if I recall. She never came when called; so on trails, I let her run until she got tired and decided to come home. If I ever got lost or turned around in the backcountry, she navigated us out—she was the best GPS system I ever owned. Bear was a husky-malamute mix with a ginger-red thick coat, one green eye, one gold. He topped the scales at one hundred and four pounds of
It's hard to fathom the scope of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Over 13 million acres, including nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States, are there. That's the size of some countries—six times larger than Yellowstone. In the heart of those extensive icefields, glaciers, and arêtes, you'll find Ultima Thule, an adventure lodge run by a quintessential Alaskan family—three generations committed to a legacy and a home they gladly share with others. I met the Clauses eight