There are numerous trails in the area, from short 3-4 mile trails to longer routes that wind their way 30 miles and more back into the mountains. We can also go off trail and explore the Mentasta Mountains. We can drive 2 miles down the road and hit another trail, or drive 20 miles down the road and take yet another trail. There are more than half a dozen trail options for exploring, and endless stretches of mountainside and rolling hills of the Copper River Basin to get and about in.
The cabin, sitting in a small grove of white spruce trees, has an outhouse by it, table and chairs, wood stove and a fantastic double window with a great view of Mt. Sanford. This little cabin is one of the real gems of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
One really great thing about this trip is the flexibility of the place. We can go as hard or as easy as you like. We can adapt the hours to suit a preference of hiking, snowshoeing and skiing, or change it around a little and concentrate on photographing the golden light; be out before dawn to photograph, come back for breakfast, enjoy the day, and be out to photograph the evening alpenglow before a later dinner. Then keep watch for northern lights at night.
For those folks who are experienced backcountry travelers, we can stretch the travel out, snowshoeing longer, or skiing further, as you prefer. The landscape here is great for either off trail cross country travel or follow the snow machine trails and really cover some miles.
Winter in Alaska is a long time. This trip works any time from December through late April. December and January are likely to be colder, and the days are much shorter. But it’s an intense and unique experience seeing Alaska in the grip of winter’s depth. As February rolls around, the days begin to lengthen, and (generally) warm up a bit. By March we start looking at 10-12 hours of light, and by April the days are longer here than in the Lower 48 states. The sun returns with some warmth to it and long bluebird days are not uncommon.
The trip is generally great through until late April. After that the snow melts faster and fast, and becomes less pleasant to travel over, requiring much more work and effort even by mid-day. Once this breakup season rolls around, either head high into the mountains for snowskiing/snowboarding, or wait until the melt has finished and the ground form enough to hike over.
Bring layers. Winter is tough to pack for, as the temperature variance can run from minus 50 degrees to 35 or even 40 above. bring big puffy down parka for standing around photographing, to throw on when you stop for a break on an outing. Bring a couple of thick wool or fleece hats, a turtle or neck gaiter (a fleece ski mask works well too), thick gloves, liner gloves, the warmest mitts you can find, capilene, polypro or wool baselayers, fleece and/or down pants, fleece or wool shirt/pullover, and a shell (top and bottom). I like softshell outerwear gear for the winter, and recommend a pair of softshell pants and a softshell (hooded) jacket.
You’ll need a good sturdy pair of insulated winter hiking boots for snowshoeing. A pair of packboots or bunny boots for photographing and standing around outside in sub-minus 20 temperatures, and a pair of slippers for sitting around the cabin in. For skiers, you’ll want either BC NNN bindings or 3-pin bindings, sturdy and insulated boots, and metal edged skis. You can rent the gear you need in Anchorage if you like. Snowshoes are also available for rent; you’ll definitely want something in good condition, with good metal crampon teeth. how much flotation you need will depend on whether we’re heading out for mostly off-trail treks or sticking to the trails.
The cabin does not have power, so I recommend bringing plenty of batteries for your electronics (we can recharge a few things via the van). Bring an insulated water bottle. You’ll want a large daypack; winter trips require carrying more gear than a trip in warmer weather. If interested, give me a shout and I’ll provide you with a complete gear check list for the trip.
Where Are We?
As with all Alaska expeditions, itineraries are fluid and flexible, molded to fit your needs and interest. The following is just an outline of how this trip can run. We can tailor it to be as strenuous or as mellow as you desire. Hikes can be longer or shorter, harder or easier. We can either snowshoe or cross country ski as you’d prefer.
Day 1 – Arrive in Anchorage the day before your trip begins. I’ll pick you up in the van, we’ll grab whatever last minute things we need, and hit the road. it’s a roughly 6 hour trip, and we’ll grab a sandwich for lunch on the way.
Once we get to the trailhead, we’ll unload the van, and sled the gear a short haul into the cabin. Stack the wood stove and light the fire, and set up the cabin, sleeping pads and bags, sort out the gear, and start thinking about some supper. Dinner with be cooked over the wood stove or on a gas stove, depending on what’s for supper.
Day 2 – Breakfast in the morning, and then we’ll head up the hill for a snowshoe. Lunch back at the cabin, and the afternoon you can either come out again for another hike or a relax around the cabin. After dark we’ll have supper and enjoy the warmth from the wood stove.
Day 3 – We’ll have a hearty breakfast, pack a lunch, go jump in the van and then head down the road to a nearby trail. Or, if you’re a strong hiker/skier, and up for a little more rigorous adventure, we can head out right from the cabin and head across country, pick up the trail and make the trip a little longer.
Day 4 – If you’re feeling good and up for it, we can drive down the road to a longer trail, and really hit the backcountry. This one goes way back, and I mean way back. We can go as long and far as you’re up for, before making our way back to the road, hop in the van and head back to the cabin.
Day 5 – We’ll run down to the end of the road, and either take a shorter and easier trip down to an old abandoned mine, or climb the somewhat more vertical Skookum Volcano Trail and enjoy yet another a massive view of the Valley. Or, for those of you who are seriously up for a big last day, we’ll do both.
Day 6 – Have breakfast, pack up the gear, clean the cabin and load out to the van for the ride back to Anchorage. You’ll be dropped at your hotel and we’ll say our goodbyes. Overnight in Anchorage and schedule your flight home the following day.