Having covered about 5,000 miles on their snowmobiles, the "three old guys'' who departed Grand Rapids, Minn., on March 6, headed for Alaska, are stuck above the Arctic Circle, in a village called Old Crow, Yukon, awaiting clutch parts to be flown to them, which could take a couple of days or more.
Paul Dick, 72, Rex Hibbert, 70, and Rob Hallstrom, 65, have had a tough few days crossing the Richardson Mountains, after leaving Fort McPherson April 1 in Canada's Northwest Territories.
Headed to Old Crow, over the Richardson Mountains, the men initially tried to reach a remote cabin they were told they could sleep in if necessary. They reached the cabin, but beyond that point couldn't find the trail and, worrying about being lost overnight in such a remote environment, they returned to the cabin to sleep.
April 2 didn't start much better. At one point, looking for the trail, the men decided to leave their sleds and search for a path on foot. Shortly thereafter, Hallstrom broke through ice and was immersed in water up to his knees.
Returning to his sled, Hallstrom emptied his boots of water and quickly changed clothes.
About this time, two First Nation — native — men arrived on a single Ski-Doo. The men were planning to connect with another group coming over the mountains from the opposite direction, and they volunteered to show the three American snowmobilers the route over a mountain pass. But the First Nation men and the Americans were pushed back by bad weather, so the American trio retreated to the cabin for a second night.
On April 3, following the route the two First Nations men had shown them, the three snowmobilers again attempted to reach the mountain pass. Which they did — only to find the top was snowless and rock covered.
A chance encounter at that time with a First Nations man coming from the west, breaking trail on a snowmobile for a group behind him that was headed to Fort McPherson, provided much needed relief for the Americans, who were able to follow the group's trail to Old Crow.
In Old Crow, the men were greeted by locals who offered them a cabin for accommodations, complete with wood-burning stove.
That was the good news.
The bad news was that, upon inspection of their sleds, and having been told by Old Crow residents the route ahead was "330 miles of no trail,'' Hallstrom, Dick and Hibbert decided they could go no further without rebuilding the clutches on at least two of the machines.
Because Old Crow can't be reached by road, the necessary parts for their Arctic Cat sleds, when they can be located, must be flown in from Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon. The men figure they'll be in Old Crow — ever nearer, but yet so far from their Fairbanks, Alaska, destination — for at least two more days.
Hallstrom is a retired electrician from Park Rapids, Minn.; Hibbert 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, and each is capable of making the necessary repairs.
Hallstrom's daughter, Kasie Plekkenpol, operating out of her Twin Cities home, updates the trio's Facebook page, and also has set up a buymeacoffee account for people who want to pony up for dinner for the intrepid travelers, top off one of their machine's gas tanks or help with repairs.