Waking up at 5 am (should have been 4), we jump in the Toyota Tacoma to catch our flight out of Denver. Riley and I are buzzing with muddy 7Eleven coffee combined with the excitement of heading out on another trip to Alaska.
“Don’t you want to go somewhere else?” people ask me.
Of course I do, but the truth is that there are so many things that are possible and potentially unskied in Alaska that it is just an attractive destination for me and this odd ball group of friends and ski partners that I’ve come to know the last few years. The real adventure starts with just planning and attempting to figure out how to get to our goal.
We make the 3 hour drive to Denver from Aspen and swap cars. Mama’s Eurovan drops us off at Denver International Airport. Aaron Diamond is waiting to do the usual gear shuffle to make sure our 3 bags each are 50 lbs each on the dot, or within a couple pounds with maybe a toe under one end of the scale. $125 a piece for bag fees and we cruise through security to catch our first flight to Seattle. Delayed. We have a tight connection. 30 minutes late, the plane pushes back from the gate and manages to catch a rare tail wind. Somehow we only arrive a couple minutes late and the usual slow process of unloading allows us about 5 minutes before final boarding call for our next flight. With just enough time to stretch our legs during the concourse sprint, we catch one more flight of a little over 3 hours to Fairbanks. We joke about being ready to leave Anchorage the moment we land there. I think Fairbanks may be the new joke. It’s time to get out, now!
In researching how to get from Fairbanks to Delta Junction and realizing how expensive rental cars are, we opted to try a Uhaul cargo van. 20 day rental for $399 plus mileag. This still came out to less than half of what rental car companies were asking for a minivan. So we bust out the Crazy Creeks and pray we don’t get pulled over!
Aaron is trying to break in his big clunky mountaineering boots that he will use on Denali this year after he trades his splitboard for snowshoes for the long trudge up and down the Kahiltna — twice. We can’t stop making fun of him, but he takes it in stride. And he has managed to take some interesting pictures of the Pioneer Park area that we are in.
We spent the last day and a half buying and packing food and making sure every last thing is ready before we head southeast. Delta Junction is our taking off spot with Golden Eagle Outfitters in their fleet of Supercubs.
Before leaving we went out for one more big dinner Alaskan style. The Pumphouse serves up steaks soo big they should be illegal with copious amounts of side dishes. Try the Alder Smoked Ribeye here if you have an appetite. We rolled ourselves out the door and back into our van to head for bed, excited to be moving on from Fairbanks in the morning.
Jordan White is a strong alpinist who finished skiing all 54 Colorado 14,000 foot peaks in 2009. He guides, tends bar, and lives the all-around perfect life in Aspen.