Alaska News

North Trail opens between Dillingham and Manokotak

With temperatures hovering in the teens and fresh snow blowing across the tundra, adventurous travel between Manokotak and Dillingham on the North Trail is finally bringing people to Dillingham for groceries and good times.

"I was the third person that went on the river, or North Trail," Leon George of Manokotak said. "I had a friend bring me to town to get my new snowmachine. We rode over and because I had to break in my new machine it took me over three hours to get home. If there were lots of snow, it would be faster. The conditions are pretty bumpy after you cross Weary River. The Manokotak side is kind of okay."

Bumpy is the consensus. Manokotak VPSO Bill Yates made the trip to Dillingham to watch the Sockeye Classic. "The trail is very bumpy. Take it slow. When you hit those bumps going too fast, you break something every time."

Yates speaks from experience, as he and his group gave aid to a stranded traveler on the trail over the weekend.

"Travel in groups and be prepared. Anything can happen out there and then you can be stuck," Yates said.

His advice is to carry a cellphone and VHF radio and if those do not work on the trail, have a flashlight ready to signal. "That's how we found one stranded traveler," he said.

"I haven't noticed people traveling with much survival gear," Yates said. "People out here are used to the area, but getting stranded can turn into a big deal. You never know."

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Something as mundane as a grocery run to town can turn deadly. "Travel in pairs. You might think you are safe traveling alone," Yates said. "It may take an extra $20 in gas, but it is worth it to have two machines. If one breaks, you have another. Pairs are good, groups are better and it's fun. Take it slow and be especially cautious at night."

Even though temperatures are below freezing, solar gain during the day creates thawed patches. Yates and his group encountered some open water on their journey.

In addition to travel to Dillingham, Manokotak residents are enjoying ice fishing on nearby ponds. The trail to Togiak, although not open, is passable to a point by both snowmachine and four-wheeler bringing intrepid outdoors-people to the pike hot-spots.

Accessing the Togiak Trail is not advisable. "The river is not safe. Before you cross the Igushik," Yates said, "test the ice carefully by foot first with a rope and somebody else holding on from the bank. Look for trails that are dug in. Every time it snows, trails are covered. I have seen thin and open water spots. At this point, things are still heating up enough to thaw through. The weather is not constant yet."

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.

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