Rob Hallstrom, Rex Hibbert and Paul Dick, call themselves the “3 Old Guys.” They’ve 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. You can follow their journey on their Facebook page: 3 Old Guys Ride To Alaska. If you don’t follow Facebook, Ive recapped the first 8 days of their trip from their Facebook posts. Ill try to do this after every week until they complete their journey. – Kale
JANUARY 21ST POST – THE ROUTE
There are many ways we can get to Alaska, most of which are much easier than this route, but we like the path less traveled.
We are leaving Grand Rapids, Minnesota and passing through Lake of the Woods, Gimli, Manitoba, Swan River, Manitoba to Flin Flon, Manitoba. On this leg of the trip we will be riding on the excellent trail systems maintained by Minnesota and Manitoba snowmobile clubs. We thank all the volunteers that make these trails happen!
Les Oystryk shared an old magazine article with me about the “Tractor Trains of the North” that supplied remote villages from the 1920s to the 1970s and I knew these historic trails would have to be part of our trip. Following these trails, assuming we can find them, will take us from Flin Flon to Sandy Bay, Southend and Wollaston Lake. From Wollaston we intend to ride an ice road to Stoney Rapids. From Stoney Rapids we will ride across Lake Athabaskan to Fort Chipewyan.
Rivers have always been the highways of the North and we plan to follow them for many miles. Leaving Fort Chipewyan we will follow along the Slave River, hopefully avoiding the many rapids in this stretch to Fort Smith. Following the river north to Great Slave Lake we will ride to Hay River and continue west to the mouth of the Mackenzie River. We plan to follow the Mackenzie its entire length to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean.
From Tuktoyaktuk we plan to head south to Fort McPearson and over the Richardson Mountains to Old Crow. There is no marked trail through the mountains but it has been a historic dogsled route for as long as anyone can remember, hopefully we can pick our way through. Down the Porcupine River to Fort Yukon and up the Yukon to Circle, Alaska. At Circle we will get on the Yukon Quest Dog Sled Trail and follow that into Fairbanks. The Yukon Quest race will be over by then so no worries about bothering the dog sledders.
Please keep in mind this is Plan A, but things happen on the trail and things always change, so we will see how it actually works out. As we go along, I hope to try to post stories about the people we meet and things we see as much possible.
DAY 1 – MARCH 6TH
Trail Update- 214 miles
Guys stopped in Squaw Lake for gas. Huge shoutout to the gentleman that was waiting for them (and generously took care of the gas bill). Beautiful day of riding reported; they are ahead of schedule and are enjoying lunch in Waskish, MN.
Reminder to send any updates or pictures of them from the trail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Couldn’t have asked for a better day to kick things off. Lunch at West Wind Resort in Waskish, MN- thanks to Lost River Trails for checking in with us. Smooth arrival late this afternoon at Sunset Lodge on Lake of the Woods- even better to have a great group meet up with us for dinner.
Appreciate all the support virtually and on the trail. THANK YOU. The real work is yet to come.
DAY 2 – MARCH 7TH
240 miles to Gimli Manitoba. Lost some of our relive tracking for some reason? Everything running good. Trails pretty good, could use some snow but not bad. Crossed the border at Angle Inlet.
Crossed the border at Angle Inlet. How comes the American side has a heated booth and the Canada side has a phone hanging out in the cold. Lol
100 miles in by 10 am! We deserved a cinnamon roll and coffee.
Video Footage of morning departure from Sunset Lodge, Rob leading followed by Rex and then Paul. Guys should cross into Canada today.
On a good day they could travel 200-300 miles, especially if they are following trails; the actual daily mileage varies greatly based on conditions and could be far less in deep snow, tough terrain, or in areas where they are trailblazing.
What’s a day on the trail look like? In a perfect world they get up early, have a Cliff Bar or something with coffee in their room and hit the trail half an hour before daylight. They don’t know what the trail will bring and sometimes need all the daylight they can get. They snack on the trail, rarely stopping for lunch and on a perfect day reach the day’s destination with enough time to scout their way back out of town. In and out of towns can be challenging with tracks going everywhere. They gas up and oil machines, look them over for any issues and have a nice dinner. Early to bed, and do it again the next day. While this is the ideal, it’s rare that something doesn’t come up to challenge or change things up- that’s why it’s an adventure!
You can read a variety of details about their journey in various previous FB posts dating back to December, but I want to call out some highlights given the number of inquiries that have come in….
At this point, they will not be broadly sharing their GPS in real-time on social media, but a select group of individuals are monitoring their progress and we will do our best to keep you posted on a daily basis.
DAY 3 – MARCH 8TH
Guys had another great day. Traveled approx 300 miles from Gimli to Swan River. Total miles traveled thus far- approx 775. Temps around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reporting good trails and everything working well. Unfortunately, we are still running into glitches with the Relive app (old guys and technology) – we will work on getting a full download of the GPS coordinates when they return back home. Until then, here is about 1/3 of today’s route. They hope to post an update tonight with pics from the day too, so stay tuned!
DAY 4 / MARCH 9TH
Swan river to Flin Flon today. Cold start -19f Great trails all the way.
Well we are about a thousand miles in and everything is going great! Tomorrow we will be in for a big change as we leave the excellent trail system and Manitoba and head off trail. We are loaded down with gas and headed northwest to Sandy bay.
Guys left Swan River this morning, hoping to achieve another high mileage day appreciating that they only have another day or two left on “traditional” trail systems and then things will get a bit more unpredictable.
So far, the guys have traveled about 775 of the roughly 4000 mile journey and have been met with great weather and beautiful trails. Equipment is running great and everyone is in good spirits.
DAY 5 – MARCH 10TH
Nobody said it would be easy.
Today was a tough day on the trail. The guys used over a tank of gas in the chainsaw cutting through brush and fallen trees as they made their way through old cat trails that haven’t been used in years.
In that process, Rob had a fallen pine tree come up through the hood of his sled, he grabbed the branch and tossed it over his shoulder without much thought. Later, as they crossed a lake riding through deep powder the engine naturally got hot as the machine worked harder, and the muffler warm. They stopped to assess the route and noticed smoke coming from Rob’s sled. Rob and Paul quickly started packing snow on the machine but the burning was deep under the hood. Thankfully, Rex had (last minute) packed a fire extinguisher that saved the sled.
They later realized that remnants of the pine tree broke off under the hood and was laying on the exhaust pipe which caused the fire. They were able to limp the ~50 miles back to Flin Flon where they knew they would be able work on repairs and regroup.
Now, in true Apollo mission style they are pulling together the tools available and doing the necessary repair work.
Thanks to the many people that were available and on standby to help today from both near and far.
DAY 6 – MARCH 11TH
Continued media coverage today. Meanwhile, the guys leveraged their personal skills and managed to cobble together a fix last night allowing them to depart Flin Flon (again) and work to make their way on the next leg of the journey.
Trail report. Sandy Bay. After patching up Norseman we set out again for Sandy bay. With half the trail broke things went pretty well. Deep soft snow here and slushy spots on the lakes, happy to have the 800s today. We found our way into Slims Cabins about 3 and relaxed this afternoon. Think we are going to go out tomorrow and open up some trail and stay here again. We like it here.
Guys made it from Flin Flon to Slim’s Cabins in decent time given they were able to follow their trail from yesterday for part of the route. That being said, breaking trail is hard work – especially with sleighs in tow. Sled is holding up and everyone is in good spirits.
1,050 miles towards their 4,100 mile journey.
The “3 Old Guys” have shared from the beginning that they prefer the road less traveled. As such, much of their route was intentionally designed to follow historical treks and backcountry. This required extensive research and diligence leading up to the trip- just another part of the adventure. One of their favorite aspects of this was learning about the rich and important history of this area.
Les Oystryk, a retired conservation officer and historian from Saskatchewan served as a great resource during the “research” phase of this effort and provided numerous articles and suggested maps as guidance to the guys for their planning.
As Les shares, during this latest leg of their journey “The three old guys were traveling on one of the oldest winter freighting trails in northern Saskatchewan. That trail from Flin Flon to the Churchill River that they were following was first established in 1928 when the Hudson’s Bay Mining and Smelting Co. cleared and used that trail to freight tons of goods and equipment to build the Island Falls Hydro dam on the Churchill River in order to have a power supply for the new mine and smelter at the Flin Flon Mine. Linn Tractors were the mode of tractor transportation in those days.”
Re-discovering these trails and imagining what it must have been like to first break trails like these is just as interesting as the ride itself for the 3 Old Guys.
Thanks to Les and the many others that helped patch together the route and history for this journey.
DAY 7 – MARCH 12TH
Day seven trail report. Had a great day riding today. We left our sleighs at Slims cabins and went out searching for and breaking trail on the old cat trail. -19f this morning but it warmed up this afternoon. Super pretty here and great fun riding in this deep powder with out our sleighs. We made good progress breaking out the trail but it sure takes time and gas! We will take the sleighs and head for Southend tomorrow. We sure could use a place to stay around there if anybody has an idea. As usual we never think to take a picture in the tough spots.
96 miles today, but no progress towards the destination- team worked to break the trail and will move forward tomorrow towards Southend.
-19f in the morning, but warmed up considerably as the day went on.
DAY 8 – MARCH 13TH
The guys have been at it for over 13 hours. They made good time leveraging the tracks they set yesterday, but it is clear they’ve had challenging terrain today and we suspect (though don’t have confirmation) they had to leave their sleighs at one point, break the trail and then circle back to retrieve the sleighs. They are still working their way towards Southend and we will provide an update once we hear more from the trail.
End of the day – the guys are calling it just after midnight. Over 16 hours of trail time. We know they must have been SO close to the trail leading into Southend, but in the dark hours of the night they were unable to find it and are camping out. They will get a good night’s rest and be back at it in the morning.
Service is limited, so our updates tonight are based on assumptions from following their tracker and a one-liner via the GPS. Obviously, we also don’t have any “live-action” photos to provide, but these are pictures of their tent from a test run earlier this winter. In addition to spare parts and extra fuel, core to their packing list was everything needed to spend the night outdoors including an Arctic Oven Igloo-model “hot tent,” a woodstove and sleeping bags rated for -60F.
Don’t feel too bad for these guys… they knew this was part of their journey.