Volume 124, Number 13
Area people seek adventure by snowmobiling in Alaska
BY SARA J. PLUM
While getting the oil changed on my car recently, I noticed a copy of a magazine article pinned to the wall in the mechanic’s office. The title "North (From) Dakota to Alaska" was enough for me to take a quick look.
As I skimmed through the article, names kept appearing of people I knew: my cousin’s husband; a neighbor down the street; my children’s cousin; friends I’ve gotten to know since moving to Maddock; and my mechanic.
Hmmm . . . this was interesting, the kind of news we like to cover at the Benson County Farmers Press.
Amazingly I didn’t have to do any arm twisting to get a copy of the article or a meeting organized with those from the area who went.
They are still excited. Faces light up when they talk about their once-in-a-lifetime trip.
The trip was snowmobiling in Alaska the week of March 18-25, 2006. It was something they had talked about, but only in a "wouldn’t it be fun" context. After a couple of inquiries, it became a reality and serious planning began in the fall of 2005.
The sledders were Mike Ness of Greenbush, Minn., Gary Dumdei of Palmer, Alaska, Howard Oakland of Devils Lake, Dave Sebelius of Leeds, Tim Tuchscherer of York and Kevin Gigstad, Kyle Sabbe, Norman Rosendahl, Rick Olson, Ryan Knatterud and Elliot Jones, all of Maddock.
One of the initial planners was Kenny Hellerud of Maddock. He is a long-time snowmobiling buddy, who gave the idea life and convinced the guys the trip was feasible. Unfortunately he was unable to make the trip.
Another one was Dave Sebelius. He drives semi for Minn-Alaska Transport, owned by Gary Dumdei. When asked if he could bring some friends up to go riding, Gary gave Dave a green light.
The semi was brought to Maddock and the snowmobiles and gear were loaded with the barrels of chemical Dave was transporting. Howard Oakland decided to ride along so he could say he traveled the Alcan Highway. (The road built during WWII to connect Alaska with the "lower 48.") They stopped in Fairbanks to unload the shipment. Since they were ahead of schedule, their sleds came out and they rode near Denali National Park, guided by Alaska native Greg Schaffer and his son.
From there Dave and Howard headed to Palmer, Alaska where they picked up Gary and continued to Anchorage to meet the rest of the group at the airport.
The North Dakota contingent took a flight from Devils Lake to Minneapolis, Minn., where they were to meet Mike Ness. Having never set eyes on the guy before, they wandered by the gate trying to determine who looked like a sledding enthusiast. After finding him, the plane was boarded and the next six and a half hours were spent in the air. They landed in Anchorage around 3 p.m. CDT, met Dave, Howard and Gary and found a place to eat. A meal wasn’t offered on the flight. The group then traveled to Glennallen, population 574, to spend the night at the Caribou Motor Inn.
One of the guys was battling a cold and slept most of the way to Glennallen. The others said he was lucky. The road was snow covered, winding and had steep drop-offs on both sides. Gary was in the lead vehicle, a crew cab pickup pulling a trailer. Dave and Howard were next in the semi and Norman was driving Gary’s Suburban. Gary, being familiar with the road, was driving fast. It was keep up or be lost.
The first day of riding the group went north of Thompson Pass. The conditions weren’t the best — it was foggy, drifting snow and the visibility was poor. They headed back to Glennallen.
It was decided the second day to go to Summit Lake, home of the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic held each spring. (The Classic is kind of like the snowmobile version of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.) An area had been cleared for parking, so that’s where the semi was. They traveled to Paxson, but again encountered unfavorable weather conditions — 30 degrees, snowy, overcast and difficult to see.
They stayed at the Denali Cabins at Paxson that night. Their hosts, Audy and Jennie, were "interesting" people, as were the accommodations.
Paxson is a town that was built for the workers of the Alaskan Pipeline. According to the 2000 Census, there are 43 people that live in the 314 mile CDP (census-designated place) of Paxson. Everything is run by generators in this area the group termed the "boonies." They thought Flora was possibly bigger than Paxson.
Day three found them back at Summit Lake, riding under sunny skies with a temperature of 38 degrees. They rode to the Summit Tit (elevation 5,323 feet), the starting spot for the Arctic Man Classic. The day was spent sledding in T-shirts and enjoying the vast white playground.
The Denali Highway, which is closed in the winter, was traveled by snowmobile from Paxson to the Maclaren River Lodge the fourth day of riding. The sunny, but cold and windy, day was spent riding at the base of the Maclaren Glacier. A lot of pictures were snapped of breathtaking views that are a part of the Alaskan wilderness.
The crew returned that night to the Maclaren River Lodge, where owners Alan and Susie served a sumptuous supper. After living on hot dogs and other junk food in Paxson, the guys were grateful for a hot meal.
The last day of riding presented excellent conditions — 25 degrees, partly cloudy, no wind and lots of powdery snow. Lodge owner Alan joined the group, taking them to some excellent riding areas. They also went back to Maclaren Glacier. Before they knew it, it was time to head back to the lodge and pack up. They traveled to Paxson that night and loaded the sleds and gear into the semi the next day.
Most of the guys in this group take annual sledding trips to Montana, Utah or Idaho and are used to traveling together. One of them, Tim Tuchscherer, found out his riding buddies can also be quite the pranksters.
Tim brought his sled to Elliot Jones’ shop in Maddock a few days before it was to be loaded for the trip north. He didn’t realize he gave the Maddock bunch enough time to rig a "special" feature on his snowmobile.
They managed to take the horn from an older pickup and attach it so it would honk whenever the brakes were applied.
At first Tim wasn’t sure what was wrong with his brakes. He asked Dave, who repairs and builds snowmobiles, if he could take a look.
Being in on the joke, Dave said it was something that would probably go away on its own. Everyone else had to turn away while they choked back the snickers.
The prank was realized when Tim was coming down a long slope that required riding the brakes to maintain control. That pickup horn sounded all the way DOWN the slope and the laughter sounded all the way UP the slope.
Even though they like to pull tricks on each other, they are very serious about safety on their trips. Each rider had a backpack containing survival gear, plus a large flashlight and a beacon. A discussion with members of a search and rescue team in Montana awhile back yielded the most important survival tip for sledders — keep your gear in a backpack and not stowed on your machine. If caught in an avalanche you will almost always be separated from the sled — and your gear. That is one tip the sledders never forgot.
While the rest headed to Anchorage to catch their flight home, Dave and Howard headed back to North Dakota in the semi.
Howard had retired after 25 years of selling Arctic Cat snowmobiles at the John Deere dealership, Devils Lake Equipment in Devils Lake. He figured this would be his last sledding trip.
Dave and the guys wanted to do something special for Howard. They’d heard about a place in the Yukon where people would hang signs bearing the name of their hometown and the distance to it. They had a sign made that read "Howard Oakland, Devils Lake, ND."
En route home, Howard made sure they stopped to get the proper nails before arriving at Sign Post Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada. The forest was started by a homesick GI who was working on the Alcan Highway in 1942. He broke his leg on the job, so was given the task of sign making. Fifty years later he and his wife returned to find over 10,000 signs posted. Now Howard’s is there, too.
When asked what the best part of the trip was, the guys I met with, Dave, Kevin, Elliot, Kyle, Rick, Ryan and Norman, agreed the day spent sledding at Summit Lake was the best.
As to the worst part? That was sitting at the airport in Minneapolis and realizing the next plane you get on will be going home, signaling the end of your once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Based on the talk going on around me though, I don’t think Alaska has seen the last of them.
Editor’s note: Some of the information in this story was taken from the article in the March 2007 issue of SnoWest Magazine.
The sledders are shown in front of the Maclaren Glacier. From left to right are Gary Dumdei on his Ski-Doo Summit 700, Howard Oakland on his Ski-Doo Summit 600, Rick Olson on his Ski-Doo Summit 800, Dave Sebelius on his Arctic Cat 800, Kyle Sabbe on his Ski-Doo Summit 800, Elliot Jones on his Arctic Cat 900, Norman Rosendahl on his Ski-Doo Summit 800, Ryan Knatterud on his Arctic Cat M7, Kevin Gigstad on his Ski-Doo Summit 800, and Mike Ness on his Ski-Doo MX Z 670. Not pictured is Tim Tuchscherer and his Ski-Doo Summit 800.
The undulating landscape provided the sledders with opportunities to test their jumping skills.
Howard Oakland is shown with a sign the sledders presented him. The bottom center is a picture of a snowmobiler.
Successful gobbler hunt
Jack Schwanke of Maddock is shown with the turkey he shot opening day, April 14. It is a 21-lb. tom turkey shot near the Vernie Erickson farm. He shot it with a 20 gauge youth model shotgun he won at a Ducks Unlimited banquet. Jack is the son of Doyle and Kate Schwanke and is in the fourth grade at the Maddock School. The 10-year-old also enjoys fishing and bow hunting.
Wildcats show their stuff at Kiwanis meet in Carrington
The Benson County Wildcats track and field teams made good showings April 20 at the Carrington Kiwanis meet. The girls took second place and the boys brought home third place. Team totals were unavailable.
Individual and relay team results for the boys’ were:
100 meter dash: Jordan Backstrom, 12.06, 6th; Daniel Luhman, 12.30; Paul Rice, 12.69.
200 meter dash: Jordan Backstrom, 24.06, 5th; Daniel Luhman, 24.24, 8th; Paul Rice, 25.40.
400 meter dash: Derek Engh, 57.43.
800 meter run: Derek Engh, 2:24.81, 8th.
1600 meter run: Colton Bullinger, 11:16.26, 5th; Andy Backstrom, 5:26.01, 9th.
3200 meter run: Colton Bullinger, 5:07.10, 5th; Andy Backstrom 12:27.67, 9th.
110 high hurdles: Jordan Backstrom, 16.84, 1st.
300 int. hurdles: Paul Rice, 46.30, 4th.
4×100 relay: BC (Derek Engh, Andy Backstrom, Colton Bullinger, Kyle Britsch), 55.21, 6th.
4×200 relay: BC (Andy Bergrud, Paul Rice, Daniel Luhman, Vince Fox), 1:42.0, 1st.
4×400 relay: BC (Vince Fox, Derek Engh, Kyle Britsch, Colton Bullinger), 4:28.71, 7th.
Shot put: Mark Wack, 47’3", 1st.
Discus: Mark Wack, 127’6", 3rd.
Javelin: Mark Wack, 157’6", 1st; Daniel Luhman, 114’9.5", 7th; Andy Backstrom, 97’8.5".
High jump: Andy Bergrud, 5’6", 2nd (tie).
Long jump: Jordan Backstrom, 18’8", 8th; Andy Bergrud, 17’10.5".
Triple jump: Andy Bergrud, 37’6.5"
Results for the girls’ team and individually were:
100 meter dash: Sharisa Yri, 13.59, 3rd.; Brenna Stone, 15.41; Erica Longie, 16.25.
200 meter dash: Bobbi Grann, 26.70, 1st.
400 meter dash: Bobbi Grann, 59.75, 1st.
800 meter run: Mackenzie Bullinger, 2:59.0.
1600 meter run: Katrece Thompson, 5:30.78, 1st; Erin Leier, 6:30.98, 8th; Mackenzie Bullinger, 6:35.0.
3200 meter run: Lindsay Anderson, 11:02.31, 1st; Ashley Manley, 14:25.53, 7th.
100 high hurdles: Jessie Schwanke, 17.00, 3rd
300 low hurdles: Jessie Schwanke, 48.48, 1st.
4×100 relay: BC (Brenna Stone, Hannah Anderson, Erica Longie, Mackenzie Bullinger), 1:02.18, 3rd.
4×200 relay: BC (Jessie Schwanke, Jordan Callahan, Bobbi Grann, Erin Leier), 1:53.28, 1st.
4×400 relay: BC (Bobbi Grann, Katrece Thompson, Erin Leier, Hannah Anderson), 4:17.15, 2nd.
Shot put: Kaidi Kenner, 32’1", 4th; Denage Braaten, 26’3".
Discus: Denage Braaten, 79’1"; Kaidi Kenner, 74’1".
High jump: Jordan Callahan, 4’11", 2nd; Hannah Anderson, 4’3".
Long jump: Jessie Schwanke, 15’6.5", 2nd; Jordan Callahan, 14’8", 4th; Hannah Anderson, 10’3.5".
Triple jump: Jordan Callahan, 33’1.75", 4th; Brenna Stone, 26’4"; Hannah Anderson, 21’6".
Bobbi Grann and Erin Leier were two of the legs in the 4×200 relay at the recent Kiwanis track meet in Carrington. Grann also won the 200 and 400 meter dashes for the Wildcats. (Photo courtesy of The Foster County Independent, Carrington)
Benson County Wildcat, Jordan Callahan, soars into the long jump pit at the recent Kiwanis track meet in Carrington. (Photo courtesy of The Foster County Independent, Carrington)
The annual Named Endowment Recognition event was held February 15, 2007 at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake. The Named Endowed Recognition event is sponsored by the Community College Foundation, which supports Lake Region State College. Brian Erickson is this year’s recipient of the Harley and Viola Summers Toolbox Scholarship.
Brian is a sophomore in the automotive technology program and serves as a Royal Ambassador. He is the son of Dean and Bonita Erickson of Langdon. Left to right are Summers Mfg. representatives Larry Summers and Debra Anderson, Brian Erickson and LRSC auto instructors Randy Olson and Rick McAllister.
Harley and Viola Summers established an endowment to benefit vocational students. One of the Lake Region’s leading businesses got its start in 1965 in Harley’s Blacksmith Shop in Maddock when Harley Summers purchased the patent for Goebel Brothers truck hoists. That investment was the springboard for a wide variety of agricultural technology innovations. The Harley and Viola Summers toolbox will be awarded annually to students enrolled in the automotive technology training program.
More than 60 endowments have been established by individuals or families wishing to support scholarships or programs at Lake Region State College. Each is supported with a gift of $10,000 or larger. Only the earnings from these endowments are used to support yearly awards.
Star music students
Leeds High School had 13 solos and ensembles that received star ratings at the regional vocal and instrumental contests and will advance to the state contest in Bismarck May 5. The banner girls are pictured. Left to right, back row, are Brenna Stone, Kendall Boyles, Amber Bracken and April Peterson. Front row: Callie Brossart, Karlee Gronos, Whitney Streyle and Ali Strand. Not pictured are Denage Braaten and Stephanie Harkness.
Members of the mixed sextet are, left to right, back row, Michael Anderson and Shawn Swanson. Front row, Whitney Streyle, Karlee Gronos and Kendall Boyles. Not pictured is Stephanie Harkness.
Members of the girls’ ensemble are, left to right, back row, Brittany LaRocque, Lindsay Anderson and April Peterson. Front row: Callie Brossart, Amber Bracken, Ali Strand and Nikki Herman. Not pictured are Denage Braaten and Dallas Johnson.
Presenting duets are, outside, Brenna Stone and Hannah Anderson. In the center are Amber Bracken and Ali Strand. Trio members are Amber Bracken, Ali Strand and Denage Braaten (not pictured). A mixed musical duet was presented by Ali Strand, vocal soloist and Denage Braaten on the flute (not pictured). Amber Bracken presented a vocal solo.
The brass quartet is composed of Hannah Anderson, Lindsay Anderson, Michael Anderson and Amber Bracken. Lindsay Anderson presented a trumpet solo and Micahel Anderson presented a trombone solo.
Brenna Stone and Kendall Boyles presented a flute duet.
The flute trio is composed of Ali Strand, Kendall Boyles and Denage Braaten (not pictured).