Alaska is proving a challenging state to traverse for the three "old guy'' snowmobilers who set out March 6 from Grand Rapids, Minn., for Fairbanks.

Beginning as an adventure that Paul Dick, 72, Rex Hibbert, 70, and Rob Hallstrom, 65, planned for about two years, the trip has in many ways become a saga.

The tale's latest chapter unfolded Saturday, when the three men were attempting to reach the village of Fort Yukon, Alaska, having left a remote cabin that morning where they had bivouacked Friday night.

Riding their sleds along and on top of the frozen Porcupine River, the men endured deep snow and, at times, slush, according to reports they sent to Hallstrom's daughter, Kasie Plekkenpol, in the Twin Cities.

The men had hoped to reach Fort Yukon by dark Saturday. But that plan was dashed when, via text using their inReach satellite communication device, they reported to Plekkenpol that Hibbert's snowmobile had caught fire.

The men were safe, they said, but frustrated. "They were so close and yet so far from their final destination,'' Plekkenpol recounted on the men's Facebook page.

By air, Fort Yukon is about 150 miles from Fairbanks. Overland, following the Yukon River much of the way, as the snowmobilers intend to do when they are moving again, the distance is indeterminate, given the many stops, starts and redirects the men make while breaking trail.

Already low on fuel when the fire started, Hibbert, Dick and Hallstrom decided to abandon for the time being the damaged snowmobile and its cargo sled, and continue on to Fort Yukon, a village of 600 mostly Gwich'in Alaska Natives that straddles the Arctic Circle.

Meanwhile, Plekkenpol and others who track the men's whereabouts via two GPS devices attached to their sleds contacted people in Fort Yukon, seeking aid.

"We were humbled by the Fort Yukon community and their willingness to help,'' Plekkenpol reported on Facebook. "They went out and met our guys on the trail — traveling about 50 miles before their paths crossed — and they were able to escort the guys into town, offering not only a trail, but guidance toward the easiest route into town. Deep gratitude for the support of Joshua Cadzow and the many others that pitched in late on a Saturday.''

Waiting for the men when they arrived in Fort Yukon was a hot stew of moose meat, rice and vegetables, thanks to Melanie Olivia of the local tribal government, among others.

Easter Sunday was the 35th day the men had been on the trail. Challenges overcome so far on the journey include an earlier snowmobile fire that started when a stick became stuck under a machine's hood and lodged against its engine or exhaust. And in Old Crow, Yukon, at least two sleds needed new clutches.

Each man tows a specially made cargo sled behind his snowmobile loaded with extra gas and other supplies, including tools and spare parts.

Hallstrom, Dick and Hibbert are adept at sled repair — a skill that was tested in Old Crow when they had to communicate by sketchy wi-fi phone service which clutch parts they needed delivered by airplane from Whitehorse, Yukon.

Plekkenpol said Sunday night the plan now is to retrieve on Monday the sled damaged by fire and get it to Fort Yukon for evaluation.

"(The fire) sounds pretty mild, as far as snowmobile fires go,'' Plekkenpol said on Facebook. "The guys think it may have been a fuel line leak that sparked the fire on restart.''

With some luck, the machine will be repaired in advance of a possible departure for Fairbanks on Tuesday.

Hallstrom is a retired electrician from Park Rapids, Minn. Hibbert is a farmer and rancher from Soda Springs, Idaho. And Dick is a retired beer distributor from Grand Rapids, Minn. Each is an experienced long-distance snowmobile traveler and racer.

The men have covered more than 5,000 miles on their Arctic Cat Norseman 8000X sleds since leaving Grand Rapids. Much of the distance has involved breaking trails and bushwhacking.