Experience the magic of the Arctic in April, with long days, lingering sunsets, snow capped mountains, hidden mammoth tusks, migrating caribou, and shimmering spring aurora on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Head north for a 5 day dog sledding retreat based in the heart of the world's highest mountain range above the Arctic Circle: the Brooks Range. Our destination is an off grid boutique wilderness retreat center situated between the dramatic mountains of Gates of the Arctic National Park and the banks of the Koyukuk River in the historic gold rush community of Wiseman, Alaska. Here, in this spectacular location, is where we will base the next few days of dog sledding, aurora viewing, and (optional) yoga.
Moderate to difficult because of narrow backcountry trails that require some balance and fitness to navigate. Moderate hill climbs where you will need to help the dogs by pushing the sled uphill and demonstrate basic balance in order to manage the sled brake on the descent. The walk from Wiseman to the Retreat Center is 20 minutes and includes a steep uphill. This five day trip traverses unbroken and seldomly traveled Arctic landscapes.
No previous mushing experience is required. We will teach you everything you need to know to feel comfortable and equipped for your days on the trail. That being said, dog mushing is a physical activity...from harnessing dogs to standing on the sled all day, you will need to be reasonably able-bodied in order to fully enjoy this experience.
In order to safely enjoy this trip you must be able to:
- Lift 50 lbs.
- Endure hard falls onto ice or hard-packed snow.
- Get dragged while holding onto sled handlebars (hard on shoulders).
- You must be able to squat to go to the bathroom outside.
- You must be able to balance on one foot for a minimum of 5-10 seconds.
- You must be able to climb stairs quickly and easily.
- You must be able to jump up from a prone position on the ground and in deep snow off-piste (i.e. a snow burpee)
- Be capable of walking or hiking on steep and uneven terrain for up to 4 hours.
- Be prepared to wrangle strong sled dogs (hard on wrists, hands, and shoulders).
- Be prepared to be exposed to cold, wet, windy and otherwise adverse weather conditions sometimes found in higher latitudes.
If you are over the age of 65, we require a medical clearance from your doctor. (Click here to see our medical form.)
You do not need previous experience with cold-weather climates, but you will need to equip yourself with a proper set of winter base layers in order to ensure your comfort and safety. Even though it is spring in Alaska, weather and temperatures can still be harsh and unpredictable. We will provide you with a list of suggested & required gear -- your comfort is our utmost concern! Check out our packing list here.
Accommodations at Arctic Hive
Arctic Hive offers three beautiful hand built cabins with mountain views in every direction, and plenty of windows to see the wild landscape and the northern lights! Each cabin will be home to two retreat attendees in twin or double beds (depending on the cabin). All cabins are off-grid, heated with Swedish Nordic oil stoves that keep the space warm and cozy.
The cabins have a limited amount of solar/battery-power, for lights and for charging small devices. There is no internet or cell phone reception from the cabins (or in all of Wiseman!) — although we do have access to service for emergencies, and for those who may need to check in with home once in a while. Depending on the amount of sunlight, you'll have the opportunity to charge small devices via generator or solar power (such as your phone if you use it as a camera). It wouldn't be wise to bring larger electronics like computers, as they draw too much power from the small battery banks.
The cabins are located just a short walk up the hill from the Igloo, which is our central lodge and gathering space for meals and community. The Igloo has a large glass ceiling for taking in the mighty views and northern lights.
The Arctic Hive property also features a large geodesic dome known as "The Hive." Mollie, Arctic Hive co-founder, will lead us in a group yoga stretching session on one of our days. We usually have yoga after the first full day of mushing :)
Bathroom facilities include a composting outhouse that's cleaned and attended to daily — along with a few designated "facili-trees" in the woods. If you're inexperienced with either of these methods, our team will assure you're up to speed upon arrival!
will i drive my own dog team?
Yes. You will drive and be responsible for your own small team of 4-6 dogs. Your professional dog sledding guide will introduce you to your team, and give you a lesson on how to drive the sled. You will learn how to harness a sled dog, and how to slow and stop your team. Your guide drives their own team just ahead of you, keeping an eye on the dogs, the trail, and your progress.
Your dog sledding guide for this trip is Lisbet Norris. Lisbet is the company owner and lead guide at Arctic Dog Adventure Co. Originally from Willow, Alaska, Lisbet grew up in a dog-mushing family. She is a three-time finisher of the Iditarod, the longest sled dog race in the world. Lisbet has two decades of experience guiding dog sled tours and expeditions. She is known for her leadership qualities under adverse circumstances and through sound preparation and experience, she makes the most unique and challenging adventures possible for her clients! Lisbet has a strong love for the North. A self-taught naturalist, she feels at home in the boreal forest of Interior Alaska and loves sharing the northern landscape with others. Lisbet holds a degree in Northern Studies and History from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
DAY 1: BASECAMP BOUND
We will pick you up between 8 and 8:30 a.m. to begin our journey north.* Our destination for the day is Wisemen, a charming little Gold Rush town in the heart of the Brooks Range, 7-9 hours away. Our first stop will be for breakfast at Mocha Dan's: our favorite coffee drive through stand. Just outside Fairbanks we'll stop at Hilltop Gas Station to fuel up the truck and pick up some slices of their famous pie for the road. Leaving Hilltop, we will travel through the beautiful rolling hills of Interior Alaska to the Yukon River. After crossing the mighty Yukon, the terrain alternates between wide open tundra, sometimes dotted with towering granite monoliths called tors, and thickly forested river valleys. We will stop at the Arctic Circle and stretch our legs. Soon after crossing the Arctic Circle into the Land of the Midnight Sun, we will see our first striking views of the Brooks Range. Depending on road conditions, we may be able to take the time to stop at additional interesting waypoints along the route like Yukon River Camp, Finger Mountain, or Gobbler's Knob. Once we reach Wiseman, we will unload our bags and trek to our accommodations for the week: an off grid wilderness retreat set in the hillside above Wiseman. After we get settled in our cabins we will meet together in the main Igloo Lodge for a family-style dinner.
- Meals: Lunch and Dinner
- Accommodations: Shared cabin accommodations (2 people per cabin)
- Milage: 275 miles (car)
DAY 2-4: DOG SLEDDING IN THE ALASKAN ARCTIC
After breakfast, we will go over gear and then head outside for our first mushing lesson. Meet your dog team and learn how to harness and hook up the dogs. After a brief orientation we will take off for a day trip along one of the historic mountain or river trails that surround Wiseman. The next few days are devoted solely to dog sledding. We will explore the tundra and creek valleys surrounding our camp. We will play in the shadows of the mountains, and search for dropped caribou antlers. Where we shall go depends on the weather, snow conditions, and our desires! If we are lucky, the sun will shine bright late into the evening, inviting long lunches with warm afternoon naps on soft tundra peaks. During April, the Central Arctic Caribou Herd is heading from the mountains to their calving grounds near the Arctic Coast. Keep an eye out for migrating caribou herds on the horizon, and the tracks of large predators that may follow them (bear, wolf). Each night we will gather together in the main Igloo for a family style dinner.
- Meals: Breakfast at lodge, Picnics on trail, Dinner at the Lodge.
- Mileage: 10-30 miles a day.
DAY 5: DEPARTURE DAY
We will pack our bags and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before walking back out to the parking lot and beginning the 30 minute journey south to the Coldfoot Airport. Check-in by 1:30pm for your flight seeing trip to Fairbanks which departs Coldfoot at 3:30 PM and arrives in Fairbanks at 4:30 PM (Exact flight time to be confirmed April 2023).
Meals: Breakfast at Camp. Bagged Lunch at Coldfoot. You will need to arrange your own dinner.
Accommodations: You will need to find your own accommodations for this night.
Transportation: You will need to find your own transportation from the Fairbanks airport to your accommodations.
Mileage: 275 miles by air.
Wiseman, AK, USA
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