08-Mar-2011 -- Although most people would call this confluence in the middle of nowhere, we call this confluence a nice spring day snowmobile ride from our home in Dillingham, Alaska. Our family and a visiting friend left our house a little after 9:00 AM on 3 snow mobiles (called snow machines up here) with full bellies, warm coats, snow pants, boots gloves, fur hats, helmets, 2 cameras and 2 GPSs.
We knew our destination was a couple of miles north of the old Manakotak airport. Manakotak is a small Yup'ik Eskimo community that is only connected to Dillingham in the summer by airplane or fishing boat. But in the winter the tundra between Manakotak and Dillingham becomes the Manakotak Trail, a snow road for snowmachines and sleds.
The ride over to Manakotak was beautiful. The sun was out and the temperature was around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Not being supper familiar with the Manakotak trail, we took our time and made our way over the tundra and across the frozen rivers. Once in Manakotak, we headed north past the old runway and across a valley. When we got out the GPS and began to navigate, we found we had to weave our way through the trees to get the 2.1 miles to the confluence. The further we went, the thicker the alders got and the trickier the ride. When we were .51 miles from the convergence we hit a strand of trees that seemed impenetrable. Not willing be defeated, we decide to walk. That idea was quickly abandoned when we sank several times hip deep into the snow. After grumbling that we did not bring snow shoes, Tim and Loren decided to try to make a path with their snowmachines leaving me behind with the kids. After almost an hour, the trail breakers reemerged , covered with sweat, stating they made it another .2 miles to the top of the hill and a clearing. Yes it did take them that long to break trail through the alders in the very deep snow. Breaking trail under these conditions is one of those things you have to experience to really understand.
Figuring we were just about there, we loaded everyone back up and headed up the newly created trail. The trail was passable with only a minor stuck snow machine on my part. When we reached the clearing we found some moose tracks to follow down to another stand of trees. We slowly wended our way through some spruce trees and back out onto the flats. At this point we were 400 feet from the confluence. We nosed into the trees from the west and found the spot. At that point Laurel started taking pictures. She then waded through the hip deep snow to get the GPS in the correct position for the money shot. After that we went back out to clearing only to find the northern route of the Manakotak trail ran less than 400 feet to the east of the confluence. And of course when we headed out, not really knowing exactly how the trail weaved through the mountains, we had taken the southern route of the trail. Although at first we were grumbling over our bad luck in our route choice, we later realized our alder busting made it much more of an adventure. Once back on the trail, it was a short ride back to Manakotak for refreshments and then a beautiful ride back to Dillingham.