Opinions / Editorials
The following editorial comes from Jeff Yanuchi regarding the recent death of a hiker on the Stampede Trail in Healy, Alaska.
If you are skilled at Alaska backcountry travel, specifically river crossings, the hike is doable any time of year. That said, there can be times when the Teklanika is not crossable, especially at the trail crossing. That crossing was put in for equipment, not people. Good scouting skills crossing a cold, swift glacially fed river are required. Remember to cross at a 45 degree angle downstream, facing the river current and scout your take out spot as well. Don’t look down at the water, look up. Looking at the water while crossing can give you enough vertigo you can trip and fall in. Keep your pack unbuckled and shoulder straps loose
So if you fall in you can ditch your pack, because it will pull you under. If it is sunny, cross in the early morning before the glacial melt brings the river level up. If it is raining, you need to read the river. If you have a question crossing, DON’T DO IT. You need to be 100% confident in your crossing. Scout to the south ( upstream) of the trail for better crossing spots.
The trail itself is usually better than bushwhacking, but it can suck, especially in the beaver ponds west of the Tek. The trail follows a creek called Moose Alley after the beaver ponds, it can be a wet hike but I e never seen it undoable. The willow and alder can make a thick bear tunnel as the arch over the trail, so be very vigilant of bears, make plenty of noise.
The trail can be a big challenge or kind of a wet buggy cruise, depends.
Let people know where you are going, when you’ll be back. If conditions look bad, turn around. McCaness, I believe, was not a fool or an idiot, but he made some foolish decisions that compounded into a fatal trip. Make good decisions, be conservative in your approach and expectations, and you should have a good trip.
It is generally easier in the winter. Our kids were seven when they made their first dog sled trip to Sushana.
Jeff Yanuchi is a New England transplant to Alaska, but also a local with a great respect for and knowledge of the land. He raises sled dogs, lives on the tundra, grows his own food with his family; he is a ranger, a father, brother, husband, son; he and his wife built their cabin with their own hands and for years ran gear with their dogs up to climbers on Denali.