Nome to Galena, Feb 24 - Mar 3, 2020
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The Three Riders

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Left to Right, Ramon Gandia, Clara Tootkaylook and Ken Shapiro. Picture taken on the RAVN bush airliner on the return from Galena to Nome 3/3/2020.


Nome - Golovin
Monday 2/24/2020

Picture © 2020, Ramon Gandia

The First portion of the trip took us from Nome, along the Bering Sea coast to Golovin. We passed Safety, Topkok, Timber and White Mountain. Our destination was Golovin, where we spent the first night. Clara slept at Larry & Kathy Fagerstrom's, and Kenny and I at Martin Aukongak's. I slept like a log.

No pictures were taken on this portion of the trip, but I should say that Golovin has grown impressively in the last 20 years. Wide streets, fire hydrants, powerlines, water and sewer ... the works. Nice!


Golovin to Elim
Tuesday 2/25/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

We left Golovin early in the morning. On the top picture, taken by Kenny, Clara is following and Ramon waaaaaay back.

Then, the camera turns towards our destination, the Portage to Elim, which starts at McKinley creek.

What a glorious sunrise!


Elim to Koyuk
Tuesday 2/25/2020

Picture © 2020, Ramon Gandia

We arrived in Elim; met with John and Darla Jemewok. She is a health aide in Elim. Had a long lunch with Johnny, and listened to his stories.

He was amazed we made it on the "Overland Trail" from Golovin, rather than taking the regular trail via Walla Walla and then the coast. "That Overland trail is a young man's trail!"

Clara bumped a tree, but so lighly, there was no damage to tree or machine!


Overnight in Koyuk
Tuesday 2/25/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Kenny and I stayed with Buck Prentiss; Clara stated with Myra & Merlin Henry. We had wonderful visits, and departed for Shaktoolik, Egavik and Unalakleet the next morning.


Wednesday 2/26/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

The first part, as shown above, is right across Norton Bay, an arm of the Pacific Ocean. About 30 miles or more over the ocean ice.

That black rock on the right is *not* a rock, but a piece of ocean ice that grounded on the bottom, picked up dirt, and floated up.

You don't want to bump one of those!

We had no issues, but it was tiresome because of the hardness of the drifts.


Wednesday 2/26/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Here we are climbing out of the Shaktoolik flats and lagoon. A few more miles put us in Egavik.


Egavik Mission
Wednesday 2/26/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Egavik is about halfway from Shaktoolik to Unalakleet. It is an abandoned mission. In the summer of 1966 I flew over it in my 1939 Taylorcraft. A two seater plane with a wooden propeller and 65 hp engine.

As I flew over, and circled, a dozen or more kids came out and waved at me. They looked very happy in colorful clothes, and running around.

In April, 1967 I was in nearby Unalakleet. I was told the mission was open but about to close down. Alas, due to bad weather, I caught no sight of it. My plane on that ocassion was a three seater 1947 Piper PA-12, 100hp engine.

Arriving here, 53 years later, was a nostalgic trip down memory lane. I was a young man then ... now I am 75!


Downtown Unalakleet
Wednesday 2/26/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

This is Unalakleet. Most of the town is behind the photographer. We stayed at the Peace on Earth B&B. $100/person per night.

I needed sled repairs, and Reid Tulloch was kind enough to weld up on my hitch. The repairs held, but the replacement bots (3/8" Grade 5) were not as strong as the grade 8's. More later.

Unalakleet has a warm spot in my heart. My first love in Alaska was here. My daugher attended Covenant High School here for two years. I have relatives in UNK.

Thanks to the auspices of Jeff Erickson, we were able to obtain lodging and repairs here. It took us an extra day to get everything done.


One Tired Clara in Unalakleet
Wednesday 2/26/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

We were having dinner that first night at Peace on Earth cafe and pizza.

Poor Clara shows the strain and tiredness.

Next day we spent on repairs.


Picture © 2020, Clara Tootkaylok

Clara T, in younger, High School times. About 1975.


Starting on the Kaltag Portage
Friday 2/28/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Maybe 10 miles out of Unalakleet, we made a quick stop. The mountains in the distance are on the right hand side of the portage.


The Only Stuck
Friday 2/28/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Just past "Old Woman Cabin", on the Kaltag Portage, I broke the two bolts holding the hitch to the sled. The sled stayed behind. I went about half a mile before realizing it.

The snow was very deep, perhaps five feet. I make a K-Turn on the trail, boated in the deep snow and got back on the trail.

Ken and Clara were waiting for me by the lost sled.

Kenny decided to take my machine and make a turn to face it the right way. He went off the trail without enough inertia, and got stuck to the windshield.

We rigged the "Rope-A-Long" and pulled it out.

To set the record straight, *I*, Ramon, did not get stuck. Kenny did. But he is the one that took the picture as I was goosing the engine to take up the slack.

We did repairs using lots of rope. In a couple hours we got to the Tripod Flats.


At Tripod
Friday 2/28/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

In the right you can see the bailey bridge trusses. This is over a steep, deep creek that never freezes. This Steel bridge was there when I did this trail in 2007. Another trip down memory lane!

Nice! A can with a rope and you can dip for all the water you want!


The BLM/Kaltag Shelter Cabin 1
Friday 2/28/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

This cabin was funded by the Bureau of Land Management, and built by the most excellent carpenters from Kaltag.

About 20 ft square, with modern wood stove, table, three bunks and a tool rack with axes, files, saws, etc. Just what anyone could need.

We cleaned up when we left. I hope those that follow do the same.


The BLM/Kaltag Shelter Cabin 2
Friday 2/28/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Kenny took this excellent picture just before the sun went down.

About 75 yards away is the outhouse, and there hangs another tale!


Clara Swimming Out
Friday 2/28/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

WE told her. Snow is too deep, door is buried. But she did not listen. She really had to go, I guess.

There goes Clara swimming out in 5 feet of snow. That is 1.6 meters to you Canucks and Frogs. And nerdy Americans that can only count on their fingers.


Clara Swimming Back
Friday 2/28/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Well, she got there, but the snow was up to her chest by the door. A door that opens out. (I thought that was stupid carpentry, but it is Federal Building Codes.)

Failing to open the door, she is swimming back.

History does not record how she took care of her business.


Kaltag at Last
Saturday 2/29/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

All sorts of trouble beguiled me.

First my AC power, that supplies the bulbs, helmet visor heater and the grip and thumb heater, went out.

The wires come out the stator assembly into a plug. This plug burnt out. In the picture, I am working to splice new, longer wires. Good thing the wires to the ignition module did not fail.

Secondly, that stupid sled kept falling off the hitch. We used a 100 ft coil of rope to make it from Old Woman to Kaltag.

Here we got more repairs, basically now using a pair of half inch bolts. A half inch bolt has twice the cross sectional area of the original 3/8 bolts. I expect this repair to hold until the end of the sled. So far, so good.

Looks like my hands are not doing too good.


Kaltag B&B
Saturday 2/29/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

We stayed at this B&B in Kaltag. Mr. Robert Nicholas. Excellent host, excellent cook. Place had water, sewer, shower, oil heat. Nice!

He also helped out with our mechanical issues. Specially the heated shop!


Kaltag to Galena
Sunday 3/1/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

Route from Kaltag, to Nulato and following the dots, to Galena


Nulato Approach
Sunday 3/1/2020

Picture © 2020, Ken Shapiro

This is on the Yukon River heading north towards Nulato.

Alas, it is the last still picture. Perhaps I can obtain others.

Nulato was superb. Last time I was here in 1969, was just a few hardscrabble huts on the riverbank.

Look at you now! Huge school, physically larger than Nome's. Has store, liquor store, city hall, etc.

Kathleen Sam met us in her truck, and invited us to her B&B. We followed for about two miles, with our jaws hanging in Amazement.

New Houses! Powerlines, plowed roads. Lots of new vehicles.

Her neighborhood was like Anchorage's hillside. Ritzy homes. Log homes for sure, but these were perfect. Inside was gorgeous, bathtub, 5 bedrooms, oil and wood heat.

My helmet had failed; Kathleen fixed me up with another one. A good one!

Someday I will go back to Nulato.


On to Galena
Monday 3/2/2020

We left Nulato on Monday morning, passing Koyukuk and later, a dead Moose.

Arriving in Galena, we contacted Bobby Frankson, who is Galena's foremost entrepreneur. His B&B had two rooms for us, full facilities. We found food in the kitchen.

I needed some snowmachine repairs. Minor things, but his shop was not available that day, so next morning, and due to ill health, I decided to terminate our trip there where we could ship the machines and sleds to Nome.

On Tuesday 3/3/2020 I shipped the 3 machines and 3 sleds on Everts Air Cargo, at a cost of $5,567.74; and the three of us took RAVN to Fairbanks, and then Anchorage.

I spent the night in Anchorage, very sick, and came to Nome on 3/4. Kenny and Clara stayed one more night, returning on 3/5.

How sick? Fever, coughing blood, pain. I lost 37 pounds on this trip. As of this writing, 3/13, I am not fully recoverd yet.

Should we have gone on, perhaps I would have needed a medevac. Or end up in McGrath with no easy way to fly the machines out.

Wait until 2021 !!


Machines and Equipment
Tuesday 3/3/2020

Picture © 2020, Ramon Gandia

We rode three essentially identical snowmachines. They are Ski-Doo Skandic 550Fan SUV. One is a 2004, two are 2005's. We noticed a slight difference in the exhaust pipe of the '04 vs the '05.

These machines have a 20" wide track, 20 X 154 X 1.25. They are basically unstoppable.

The SUV models have A-arm front suspension which is much softer and nicer to handle than the Pogo models. The way the front of the tub is built, the a-arms and shocks are tucked in, and they do not plow snow. We had zero suspension issues.

Due to lack of shakedown rides, we were plagued with electrical issues.

#2, the '04 had a new starter. It quit in Galena. The wiring for the AC power out of the stator opened up at the plug. Man, did my hands and face get cold!

#3, an '05, that Clara rode had some intermittent starter issues. I suspect the solenoid. The worse part is one headlight bulb shattered; the other burnt out one of the beams. Going into Galena, that also failed. It is not the lack of light, but that the AC voltage regulation depends on the load of the light bulbs. I feared for the regulator and heaters, but was not able to fix in Galena.

#4, an '05 that Kenny rode had the plug on the back of the ignition switch come apart. I put a wire from the solenoid to the dash, where he can touch it to the battery for cranking.

All machines were extensively serviced here; grease, adjustments etc., and mechanically gave us no problems. Other than wiring and starter.

These 550 machines are total gas hogs. Pulling the yellow sled, #2 gave me 75 miles to 9.6 gallons. #3 and #4 were better at 7.5 gallons.

Oil depends on fuel used, so we spent about $250 in SkiDoo Synthetic oil.

We had one ten ft Siglin sled that didn't give any trouble.

The Boggan yellow sled was a nightmare. I will not use this sled again.

The cheapo plastic sled from AC Store at $369, complete with runners, hitch and cover was the "little sled that could." Kenny predicted its demise, but is still intact. I am going to get another one from AC Store.

PS: I *did* get another one early April, 2020.

We took tents, tent floor, heaters and lots of camping gear. However, other than using the propane heaters in the Tripod cabin, none of it was used. We would have if we had gone beyond Ruby.


Wait Until 2021 !!
Friday 4/10/2020

Picture © 2020, Ramon Gandia

In the spring of 2021 I hope to make the trip again, this time starting in the Wasilla area, and driving to Nome. My machine will be the 2021 Super Wide Track Expedition, with 900 Ace 4-stroke engine.



Narrative Copyright © 2020,Ramon Gandia. All rights reserved.

Most Pictures © 2020, Ken Shapiro. All rights reserved.

Maps © 2020, Ramon Gandia with the aid of Garmin InReach software. All rights reserved. Revised 4/8/2020, mobile friendly 10/31/2020