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The Artisan Blog
"The next twenty years are the blink of an eye"
Quotation source: My father on my 50th birthday (thanks for that dad!)
I love this photograph. It may not be the greatest composition in photographic history but, for me, it sums up exactly what the Artisan Travel Company is all about.
The picture was taken in Alaska, somewhere north of the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway (of Ice Road Truckers fame) and it is the moment I fully realised that I had well and truly ticked off my number one bucket list item.
Coldfoot, Alaska is a truck stop, little more. The 2010 census recorded that just 10 permanent residents live here and its name (formerly a mining camp called Slate Creek) is said to derive from a time when gold prospectors would labour this far north, get “cold feet” and head back home.
Coldfoot - A Tiny Slice of Alaskan History
The crackle of logs burning in the stove
It has taken me an absolute age to write this blog because I can’t quite find the right words to describe the feeling of returning to a warm winter cabin after an active day spent engaged in winter’s Nordic activities. The deep snow serves to deaden noise so very often the only sound you’ll hear from outside is the wind and, on calm nights, it is almost eerily quiet beyond the doors of your wooden enclave. Inside, you get a sort of “Homestead on the Range” sensation which is enhanced by the crackle of logs burning in the stove and the creaking of the broad timbers from which the cabin is constructed.
Continued from TIME TO MAN-UP (PART 1)
Option 1: Go directly from the sauna into an icy plunge pool
It feels like being overcome by a panic attack
Believe it or not, this is the easy option!
From the comfort of a warm sauna........
(Image: Visit Finland)
Rush from the warmth of the sauna and submerse your body in the icy waters of a purpose built plunge pool – essentially, a big hole in the ice! The secret is to just go for it, hesitation can often result in failure and a dash back to the sauna's toasty sanctuary.
Time for my Fellow Northumbrian to "Man-Up"
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the recent program on ITV called The Land of the Midnight Sun featuring Alexander Armstrong but felt little empathy for his winter swim in the Norwegian Sea near Tromsø.
Tromsø’s position on Norway’s west coast means that thanks to the Gulf Stream it is generally warmer than other towns and cities located at similar latitudes. As Armstrong stripped down to just his swimming trunks, the temperature was -4°C and as he strode purposefully into the icy, grey waters the sea temperature was an admittedly chilly -1°C (the salt content means that sea water has a lower freezing point than fresh). That’s pretty cold by anybody’s standards but compared to what goes on elsewhere in Northern Scandinavia, this was a walk in the park on a balmy late summer evening.
There’s a saying that is popular among residents of Alaska.
“If you cut Alaska in half” they’ll say with undisguised pleasure, “Texas would only be the third largest state in America.”
to truly get under the skin of America's 49th state would take a lifetime
We all know that Texas is pretty large but, from the temperate rainforests of the south to the Arctic tundra in the north, Alaska is immense and to truly get under the skin of America’s 49th state would take a lifetime of exploration. In the north particularly, the terrain becomes pretty inhospitable, magnificent but inhospitable, and light aircraft have become an integral part of life in the more isolated northerly parts. I’ve enjoyed some remarkable flights in my time but the journey across the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks to Coldfoot will last long in the memory.
Ice Road Truckers – The Nicest People You’ll Never Meet
My life working in travel has taken me to some spectacular places and along the way I’ve met countless fascinating and kind-hearted people but, it was the people I didn’t meet on Alaska’s James Dalton Highway who impressed me as much as anybody.
Next services 240 miles
The Dalton Highway was built as a service road to support the construction of the Alaskan Pipeline and nowadays its principal purpose is to serve the oilfields in the far, far north of America’s 49th state. Kings of this particular highway are the huge trucks that ply their trade along its 414 mile course and any fans of the TV programme “Ice Road Truckers” will be familiar with their burly, lumberjack shirted drivers. Theirs is a dangerous job. Here in Alaska’s wildest frontier there is little in the way of shelter or support for any driver whose truck breaks down or, worse yet, crashes. The road signs tell the story best. For example, as the truckers head south from Prudhoe Bay they encounter the news below.....
We live crazy modern-day lives, always on the go with little time for relaxation or reflection. Of course, there are all sorts of quick fixes for the stresses of contemporary living such as yoga or visiting a spa but we’re prepared to bet that few people consider dog sledding as the antidote to the hustle and bustle of our present-day existences.
Time to think......imagine such a thing!
By its very nature, dog sledding takes you to a quieter and more remote place far removed from the traffic and crowds of our urban centres but, it also provides time to both reflect and relax. Imagine yourself standing on a sled being pulled by a team of willing canines. On easy stretches such as a vast flat frozen lake, there is little to do other than marvel at the scenery, enjoy the near perfect silence and think. Time to think....imagine such a thing!
My swim between the land masses of Europe and America was far less of a challenge than I initially anticipated, it required neither years of training and preparation nor support teams and record breaking feats of endurance. On the chilly February morning which had been chosen for my swim, I woke in my cosy double bed in Reykjavik (which was to be the starting point of my adventure), enjoyed a delicious continental breakfast and waited for my crew to collect me in reception, without any real sense of trepidation at all.
Credit: Dive. is
That was the cry in the late 1890’s which sparked one of the greatest human stampedes in history. The rumour mill was rife and, motivated by tales of nuggets as big as a fist just waiting to be picked up off the ground, a wave of humanity headed towards the vast northern wilderness. In those days there was no TV, no internet and no mobile phones so the news slowly filtered down to Seattle and San Francisco from where it spread like a gathering wildfire across North America and further afield.
From all corners of the world, it is estimated that at least 100,000 wildly optimistic would-be miners set out for the north with absolutely no knowledge of what lay ahead. They had no inkling of the long bitter winters that awaited them nor did they know of the huge distances to be negotiated across the vast, untamed and largely uncharted wilderness that lay ahead. From the UK, Europe, Australasia and elsewhere they came; lawyers, dentists, factory workers, teachers, newspapermen, conmen, farmers simply gave up their work and headed north in search of the Promised Land.