Rob Hallstrom, Rex Hibbert and Paul Dick, call themselves the “3 Old Guys.” They’ve successfully embarked on a 4,000 mile adventure traveling from Grand Rapids, MN to Fairbanks, Alaska via three equally prepped 2023 Norseman X 800 Arctic Cat snowmobiles. Their journey has been documented on their Facebook page: 3 Old Guys Ride To Alaska and has been chronicled here on ArcticInsider in four segments. Start by reading about DAY 1-8 Here and DAYS 9-22 Here and DAYS 23-31 Here. Days 32-39 are outlined below and I couldn’t be prouder of this group for accomplishing their goal! What an achievement. Congratulations guys! – Kale
DAY 32/APRIL 6
The 3 Old Guys received parts this morning and are working on getting the machines ready to go now. They intend to be on the trail by afternoon.
Harold Frost, a respected Old Crow local, will escort the Guys for the first leg of their journey down the river towards Fort Yukon. They expect it to take them approximately three days to arrive in Fort Yukon.
In case you are wondering how a bunch of Old Guys get much needed parts to the bush in a matter of mere days….. let me tell you: calls, favors, and unbelievable heroism from dealers across the north country….
Thankfully, the small crew back home includes some extraordinarily mechanically-savvy guys, so when the 3 Old Guys send us minimal GPS messages we are able to read between the lines and quickly determine what they likely need. Finding what they need and knowing how to get it to them is the hard part. Remember, Old Crow is not accessible by road making this feat even more challenging.
Phone calls for hours reaching out to dealers, motor shops, co-ops, ANYONE that may be able to assist is generally how this situation goes down. “Any chance you have…?…What do you have?…Do you know anyone else that may have something?…How quickly could we get that to Old Crow?” … In some instances we are able to find what is needed, but it would take too long to get the parts to the destination, so the search rages on. In this particular situation, Listers Motor Sports in Whitehorse pulled through with great effort, robbing necessary parts from other sleds to ensure that the needed clutches could be on an Air North, Yukon’s Airline plane for delivery to Old Crow today. WOW!!! ONCE AGAIN, WE ARE HUMBLED BY THE SUPPORT OF THE SLEDDING COMMUNITY AND NORTH COUNTRY!
When we were concerned for the Guys earlier in the trip, we spent a whole day seeking other parts and stumbled across a wonderful dealer that just happened to have a friend driving through for a hockey game and could get it to the next town the guys would be riding through. Unfortunately, an avalanche prohibited that “shipping” option, but it highlights the blocking and tackling that goes on to try and secure extra parts in these remote areas.
Some of you may be wondering, isn’t Arctic Cat a sponsor, can’t they help? Yes, and they have helped us too. In fact, a few weeks ago, when the guys chose to ride the road out of Southend, it began as a smooth ride with 10+ inches of snow – but ended with 70 miles of pavement. After that level of torture on their skis the Guys proactively called Arctic anticipating they may need additional parts later down the trail. Arctic immediately activated and overnighted parts 4-5 days up trail. Unfortunately, overnight shipping to the bush is more like 1-2 weeks (or more). The guys missed this shipment, arriving before the parts, and it had to be forwarded onward even further ahead of them trying to catch their pace. This round, knowing the guys could not move without the necessary clutch parts, the “home crew” chose to take on the burden to ensure that parts would be in-hand as soon as possible.
Again, thanks to everyone that continues to help make this journey possible – the 3 Old Guys may not have a traditional support crew/chase team, but they have definitely had a wealth of support to help make this journey a reality. Extra shout out today to Listers, the Frost family and the community of Old Crow for helping the Old Guys move forward from Old Crow and advance towards their destination!
3 OLD GUYS IN ALASKA!
Let me repeat… The 3 Old Guys are in Alaska! – onward to Fairbanks!
The 3 Old Guys crossed the line at Rampart House. The local name for Rampart House is Gindèh Chik and refers to the little creek that runs through the middle of the historic site; Gindèh Chik is the fish spear carried by a legendary person in a long ago story.
Rampart House, a Hudson’s Bay fur trading post, was re-located multiple times. Right next to the international boundary between Canada and the United States, Rampart House was home to several Gwich’in families and is visited regularly by Gwich’in living in Yukon and Alaska. This important gathering place for Gwich’in was one of the earliest Yukon places where the Gwich’in met and interacted with fur traders, missionaries, police and government officials.
The first fur traders at this site were employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The company moved from Fort Yukon after the United States purchased Alaska in 1867. Their second post, up the Porcupine River, was still inside American territory and so they moved again to occupy the current site between 1890 and 1893.
This is an important historical and archaeological site with many fragile remains – including a large monument that marks the approximate boundary line between Canada and the United States originally places by surveyors in 1889. The Rampart House Historic Site is protected under the Vuntut Gwitchin land claim agreement and the Historic Resources Act and jointly owned and managed by the Yukon and Vuntut Gwitchin governments.
DAY 33/APRIL 7
The 3 Old Guys were able to make good progress down the Porcupine yesterday and stayed in a cabin along the way towards Fort Yukon.
The guys are ~3,900 miles into what they originally estimated to be a 4,200 mile trip. Unofficially, we’re estimating they’ve put 5,000 of actual miles on the back of their Arctic Cat Norseman sleds to get to this point. The high in Fort Yukon today is supposed to be 19F and weather is holding steady for these 3 Old Guys as they work to complete this journey.
With the 3 Old Guys officially within the Alaskan border, they are closing in on their final destination of Fairbanks. We still can’t give anyone an actual arrival date – the Guys reported it best in their GPS message last night: “Every corner new adventure. Don’t know.” But we can give you insight to the “finish line,” in hopes that those within the Fairbanks area can welcome the Old Guys and help them celebrate this milestone.
Once again it has been days since we have had real, true communication with the Guys aside from short GPS messages. In a world where we are connected nearly 24/7, it must be freeing for them to unplug so completely from the outside world and embrace the purity and beauty of the land and wilderness to its fullest.
As they’ve been taking in the totality of the North country, one thing the guys have been disappointed by is the lack of wildlife they’ve seen on their journey. Appreciating they’re not exactly quiet when they come through, they still expected to see more than they have. Up until a few days ago, they had seen tracks, but only encountered a few mule deer. Near Old Crow they reported seeing caribou – likely part of the Porcupine herd.
The Porcupine caribou is a herd of barren-ground caribou – a sub-species of the reindeer or caribou. Named after the Porcupine River, the Porcupine caribou herd embarks on the longest land migration route of any land mammal on Earth, traversing over 2,500 miles of the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alaska.
At last count the Porcupine caribou herd numbered 218,000. It is one of the healthiest barren-ground caribou herds left in the world- by comparison, other barren-ground caribou herds have declined by 90%.
As herbivores, or plant-eating animals, one might think this poses a problem in the winter months for the Porcupine given their geography, but most Porcupine caribou spend the winter below treeline, in the Richardson and Ogilvie Mountains.
While they eat many plants, during the harsh winter they tend to eat Lichens, a type of plant-algae/fungi that grows on trees, rocks, rotting wood and the forest floor. Within the Porcupine caribou range lichens are mostly found growing under the snow in winter. Caribou will eat the equivalent of 2 garbage bags full of lichens a day! With their keen sense of smell, the Porcupine caribou can smell the lichens and will then “crater” through as much as 2 feet of snow to get to them.
As the Guys have steadily trekked down the Porcupine today past Old Rampart and Howling Dog Creek towards Fort Yukon, perhaps they’ll see more of these beautiful animals- or others!
DAY 34/APRIL 8
The Porcupine gave the Guys a challenge yesterday; deep snow with slush underneath for most the day was hard on fuel, men and machines. The good news is that they were able to rest safely in a cabin last night and believe they are through the “Ramparts” and the trail ahead will be easier going. They’re well on their way today and hopefully they will make it into Fort Yukon this evening.
Fort Yukon is an Alaskan town that straddles the Arctic Circle. This area has been occupied for thousands of years by Gwich’in people, but the village of Fort Yukon developed from a trading post, Fort Yukon, established by … you guessed it… the Hudson’s Bay Company, in June of 1847.
As you can imagine, Fort Yukon has a long, deep history, but I want to focus on the climate. At the confluence of the Yukon and Porcupine rivers, and roughly 150 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Fort Yukon has a strong subarctic climate. In fact, in summer they have midnight sun- meaning the sun nearly never sets, whereas in December the sun only appears for a few hours each day.
Just as the sun seems to go from one extreme to the next, so do the temperatures. Summer temperatures in Fort Yukon are high considering how far North they are and average mid 70s(F). Until just recently, Fort Yukon held the highest temperature ever recorded in Alaska when it reached 100F in 1915. In the winter months, one can expect an average of -10F; Fort Yukon holds the record for the lowest mean monthly temperature when the notoriously cold month of December 1917 had an average daily temperature of −48.3 °F.
This area may bring some big swings in daylight and weather but it’s also one of the best places in the world for observing the Aurora Borealis.
For those who are interested in learning more about the area, you may want to check out the book “Above the Arctic Circle: The Alaska Journals of James A. Carroll 1911-1922” by James A. Carroll. This book shares the journey of a young man of 17 who leaves his home in Minnesota in hopes of Alaskan gold, but stays for the land and the people. The book is a memoir of his first ten years as a trapper in Fort Yukon from 1911-1922 and the many adventures he encountered.
DAY 35/APRIL 9
The 3 Old Guys had a rough day yesterday with some setbacks but with the help and grace of the Fort Yukon community they safely made it into town around 1am CST (10pm in Alaska). We will provide updates later, but for now please enjoy your Easter Sunday.
Overcoming Setbacks is the name of the game.
The 3 Old Guys set out yesterday intending to conquer the winding tangle of the Porcupine River and, ideally, arrive in Fort Yukon by evening.
Setting out, the going was slow as they continued to fight the deep snow and make trail. It was around 4pm (Alaska time) when the message came through that another snowmobile (Rex’s this time) had caught fire.
With limited ability to communicate, the Guys reported that they were safe and healthy, but frustrated and disappointed at this turn in events- so close and yet so far from their final destination, one can only imagine the emotions that were pulsing in those moments.
Already low on fuel, the Guys had no choice but to leave the equipment and continue the journey into Fort Yukon for help- They were still a long ways out and it was unclear whether they would even be able to make it to town before nightfall.
Meanwhile, our “home-crew” went to work, determined to re-energize and support our Guys. We leveraged Facebook – and all of you- to help us. With our phones on fire (in a different sense), we direct messaged, called and texted a network of people striving to help the guys in any way we could from our cozy homes.
We were quickly able to contact individuals from Fort Yukon and garner support. We have seen it so many times on this journey, but once again we were humbled by the Fort Yukon community and their willingness to help— they went out and met our Guys on the trail- traveling ~50 miles before their paths crossed and they were able to escort the Guys into town- offering not only a trail, but guidance towards the easiest route into town. Deep gratitude for the support of Joshua Cadzow and the many others that pitched in late on a Saturday.
As if that wasn’t enough, upon arrival, the tribal leaders welcomed them with a warm meal- stew, moose meat, rice, and veggies. What a blessing after a brutal day. Thank you Melanie Olivia!
The 3 Old Guys took the evening and morning to evaluate all options (pretty sure we are on Plan G or H of this trek about now). We do not have a full understanding of what happened to the snowmobile that caught fire. Thankfully, it sounds pretty mild- as far as snowmobile fires go! – the Guys think it may have been a fuel line leak that then sparked the fire on restart.
The current plan is to retrieve the equipment with some amazing Fort Yukon help and work to fix the machine. – if this plan works, and they have the necessary parts, the Guys could be back on track and on the move as early as Tuesday, but that is a big unknown.
The 3 Old Guys fully appreciate that every day that passes is another day of changing weather as this journey gets longer and the temperatures rise; this is on their minds as they consider other backup plans in the event they are unable to make the necessary repairs, but for now we are going to remain positive that the 3 Old Guys can overcome this latest obstacle.
The 3 Old Guys do not have internet or phone service in Fort Yukon. We have been able to speak with them to cover critical details through local land lines, but our communication continues to be extremely limited. (Also no ability to get updates pics).
Easter is about Hope, and the people on this journey that have helped the 3 Old Guys every step of the way – including this last leg, have certainly helped restore our Hope in the kindness of humanity. These 3 Guys have more grit than the average, but it is all the individuals that have assisted along the way that have ensured success on this expedition. Thank you.
DAY 36/APRIL 10
The 3 Old Guys have been taking this much needed respite in Fort Yukon to rest and recover. They hope to have the equipment recovered and back in Fort Yukon by afternoon where they will fully assess cause and damage of the fire. We will also have a better understanding of next steps at that time.
Yesterday evening, local friends welcomed the Old Guys to dinner where they were able to send a few photos from the past days.
DAY 37/APRIL 11
The 3 Old Guys are back in motion!
Yesterday (Monday), the 3 Old Guys waited in Fort Yukon while new friends assisted with retrieval of their equipment off the Porcupine River nearly 90 miles out of town. Using two “workhorse” Ski-Doos, it took all day to ride out to the snowmobile and tow it back, successfully rolling into Fort Yukon around 10pm Alaska time.
While the snowmobile was being retrieved, the Old Guys napped in preparation to do late night repairs. Upon arrival of the machine, they got to work, jumping into MacGyver mode and leveraging their extensive wrenching skills to get the sled fixed and off to the final destination.
Between late night efforts and early morning touches, the 3 Old Guys were successfully able to get the machine running- but not without the creation of new parts… the Guys reported that they “made a fuel line from copper tubing and a throttle return spring from elastic rope.”
The 3 Old Guys left late this morning and are headed to Circle where they plan to spend the night. If all goes as planned they will arrive in Fairbanks on Thursday (get ready welcome crew!)
We want to extend an ENORMOUS thank you to the Fort Yukon community for your endless support, and the Snowdrift B and B that served as home these past days – the Guys gave them a 5 star review “Best in the North.” https://snowdriftbandb.com
The 3 Old Guys made it to Circle this evening- closing in on the final destination!
We expect the 3 Old Guys to arrive in Fairbanks on THURSDAY, assuming they don’t encounter any more hiccups. They will begin their route towards Fairbanks tomorrow, crossing at least three high mountain passes and riding through a high-wind area where the trail is often blown over. They will make one additional stop tomorrow night, before their planned arrival in Fairbanks Thursday.
Thursday, Time of Day estimate still TBD – we will let you know ASAP
“Finish Line” Location and Celebration:
Northern Power Sports
1980 Van Horn Rd
DAY 38/APRIL 12 – THE TIME IS NOW!!
FAIRBANKS GO MEET THE 3 OLD GUYS!! – maybe an hour out— ETA roughly 7ish Alaska time.
Plot twist! The Old Guys have had a day (to say the least)….
They are en route, albeit a bit different than originally planned, they will be in Fairbanks tonight if you want to buy them a beer at Pike’s. —- these guys need one! Paul says “Fill the cooler!”
DAY 39/APRIL 13
On April 6, the 3 Old Guys accomplished their mission and successfully rode to Alaska via snowmobile after departing Grand Rapids, Minnesota on March 6 – but their journey was not complete and they set their sights on the final destination of Fairbanks. The final stretch proved grueling- and after thousands of miles of extreme riding, everyone (and everything) was getting tired. Exhaustion did not stand in the way of the 3 Old Guys and they arrived at their final destination on the evening of April 12….but not without challenge.
With only a short distance remaining, the 3 Old Guys struggled with Rob’s snowmobile yesterday (Tues) as they rode into Circle. Thinking it was some water in the gas, they also noticed the hyfax was completely wore out. By luck, another individual happened to be riding through and was headed to Circle. They towed Rob’s snowmobile by sleigh into Circle and the Guys spent the evening putting new hyfax on and stored the machines indoors overnight in preparation for today.
They intended to take the Yukon Quest trail, but with fresh snow on the highway and continued issues, it was determined that they would try to ride the road as much as possible.
Unfortunately, when they ventured out this morning, they found Rob’s machine was dead; they needed a coil, but didn’t have a spare. The decision was made to leave the snowmobile in Circle and have it hauled to town in a few days. The Guys took off from Circle on 2 sleds with 3 sleighs, and 3 Old Guys…. They were making good time until Rex’s engine locked up. With two snowmobiles down, they now had 1 snowmobile, 3 sleighs and 3 Old Guys remaining in the fight.
With only one snowmobile, the message was sent to the “home crew” requesting a trailer. The Guys made the best of it, with a few runs on the single sled they hauled their equipment about 10 miles back down the road to where they had pit-stopped earlier and enjoyed coffee. It wasn’t long before the trailer arrived and the 3 Old Guys loaded up. It wasn’t their intent to drive/trailer the last ~60(?) miles into town, but they were close enough and there is no question it was a successful run.
Despite every obstacle, obstacles that would have stopped anyone else, the 3 Old Guys successfully rode to Alaska. Man > Machine.
As this journey comes to a close, in many ways it won’t. The 3 Old Guys have renewed our passion for adventure, revived our faith in humanity and educated us on history and land – Let’s bring that forward and share it for generations to come.
We have expressed our gratitude all along the way, appreciating and recognizing the gracious people on each leg of the journey that ensured the 3 Old Guys were safe, healthy and cared for; again we THANK YOU. A lifetime of gratitude to each and every one of you that played a part in this story – from those that offered shelter, a meal, or insights to the trail, to those that offered prayers and a positive post of encouragement on our page. This was a team effort. #team3OG
The 3 Old Guys will take a couple of days to get their affairs in order in Fairbanks, then will fly home to their excited (and relieved) families for rest and recuperation.
KEEP CHECKING BACK for more… the 3 Old Guys will continue to use this platform to post responses to your questions and share bits of their story over time, maybe even a livestream Q&A? or, if a book is agreed to, we will inform here. Stay tuned!
REMEMBER, “EVERY GOOD STORY STARTS WHEN SOMEONE DECIDED NOT TO GIVE UP.”