Slowly, we are gearing up for the season. The weather has made it difficult over the last couple of days to establish our camp so we wait with eager anticipation for a good window. When we establish our glacier dog sledding camp at the beginning of the season, we start by selecting our camp location. During the beginning of the season, we are generally at a lower elevation on Godwin Glacier and then move up the glacier as the season progresses.
The first thing we work on when we set up our camp is setting up our glacier tens and our “bag trail.” Our glacier tents are a vital piece of gear as they provide shelter from the elements. By building those first, should weather come in and delay our return, our guides and pilot have a place to stay that is comfortable. The “bag trail” is used to help our helicopter pilot by providing contrast between the very white ground and the sky. There is so much pristine white snow at the start of the season that providing contrast helps our pilot safely navigate.
After we establish camp and our bag trail, we bring up our outhouse. Although we are practicers of the Leave-No-Trace camping ethics, having an outhouse building allows us some degree of privacy. After the outhouse, comes the snow machine. Our snow machine is an essential piece of gear at the start of the season as it helps break trail so that the dogs can have an easier time pulling our guests. We receive fresh snow on Godwin Glacier until the end of June — having a reliable way to easily groom and break out our trail puts less pressure on our dogs by not having to work so hard in the thick maritime snowpack.
After we have these basics up at our camp, we then work on building our dog yard. We can’t exactly have 30 dogs running loose on the glacier so we fly up dog houses as well as poles for the dogs to live on. Our dog houses this year are a bit more heavy duty than in years past as we opted to make new wooden houses out of 3/4 plywood. These thicker houses will keep our dogs warmer at night when temperatures dip below freezing. They will also hold up better in the severe winds we can occasionally see at our dog camp.
Although we haven’t gotten to establish our camp yet, we have still had plenty of opportunities to fly and to see wildlife. Today at the Seward Airport we had three moose who were grazing in between our two runways. There was an adult female, mama moose, as well as what appeared to be a male and female yearling that were in her care. The airport is typically a favorite spot for moose to graze as it is wide open, allowing them to see predators, and has many nutritious grasses and budding flowers.
On a flight out to Bear glacier today, Pilot Brandon and his guests reported seeing a lone orca. On the return flight, everyone was excited because they saw two different bears who had just emerged from hibernation and were eagerly foraging for roots outside their dens.
There are still plenty of icebergs at Bear Glacier and we are excited about another awesome summer of flying adventures and living on Godwin Glacier.