I spend a lot of time in the winter trapping marten. Marten like the hill country, and I have to ride a lot of long, winding and sometimes steep trails. Interior Alaska isn’t typically known for getting large amounts of snow, but after the last week I am beginning to wonder…
Last weekend we more than doubled our snow fall for the winter, followed by more snow this week, as well as a couple days of windstorms that are almost unheard of in Fairbanks. With marten season basically over with, my buddy Chris and I set out to bring in some of the traps I had stashed along my lines.
Knowing the trail would be snowed in pretty heavy, we figured Chris’s 600 Ski-Doo Skandic would have to take the brunt of the work, it can really plow through some stuff!
We knew there would be some serious trail breaking, but we had NO idea what a monumental task it would be. We didn’t make it 100 yards off the road before we got stuck big time.
The snow was waist deep on top of my packed trail. We were still close to the truck, but this is a situation that can get you in trouble if you’re not careful. Earlier this year I got stuck in a bad spot 40 miles from help. I was by myself, in -30 degree temps with darkness rapidly approaching. Having what you need to survive these situations whenever you go out is a must! Especially in Alaska, seemingly harmless situations can turn deadly fast.
As anyone who rides snowmachines in the mountains will tell you, a compact shovel can come in handy. Many of the sleds now are powerful enough to go through deep powder, but even they get bogged down sometimes, and there is nothing you can do but dig them out.
Some snowmachines have seat compartments that are perfect for storing your emergency supplies such as this one. This kit has enough in it for me to make it through just about any situation I could encounter while out in the winter. When deciding what to take, it’s important to consider the area, conditions and hazards you might encounter.
The most important thing in my opinion, for winter survival, is a fire starter of some type, as well as tinder that is dry and quickly accessible. If you get wet or injured, even for short waits, just being able to quickly make a fire can save your life. Other valuable items are road flares, rope, basic first aid kit, duct tape, a flashlight or headlamp, emergency food and a stove is very handy.
Another major necessity is water. Digging this thing out really works up a sweat! It is easy to get dehydrated while trapping. It’s a lot of work, and you don’t feel as thirsty when it is very cold. It was 0 degrees here, which is cold enough to freeze a bottle of water in less than 30 minutes. It’s smart to tuck a bottle or two inside your coat pockets.
FINALLY! After over an hour of shoveling and packing snow, we were able to get moving. It was so bad that we decided we needed to throw in the towel for the day. The last thing we needed was to get stuck even worse farther from the truck.
What a sight! We had to dig out and pack down this huge swath just to get the sled turned around. All the effort this stuff takes, even with modern gear and vehicles, really makes me think about how tough the old timers up here had it.
Well I didn’t have any big catches this week, but I was reminded of how easy it is to get in over my head (almost literally). Alaska never ceases to amaze me with its ability to make me feel small and helpless. It’s so important to be prepared and also think about what you are doing while encountering these wilderness situations. Last weekend during the storm that caused all of this, a couple was staying in a wilderness cabin less than 50 miles from my trapline. They got their snowmachines stuck and instead of walking a few miles back to the cabin to wait for help, they chose to try and walk the nearly 20 miles out to the road through waist and chest deep snow. After two days and nights of walking, they were found. They were properly dressed and had food, but their decision to leave the shelter of the cabin could have turned deadly. Be smart out there!
Those of us who live in Alaska are accustomed to extreme weather, but often times, this land dishes out more than we can handle.