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About the Trekkers
Pete and I live in Southcentral Alaska, approximately 10 miles from Palmer. We moved here six years ago, to the place we named Squalor Holler. We purchased this place from Mike Cull, and he purchased it from a fellow who was going to turn it into a lama guide business. The Talkeetna Range is in our backyard and the Chugach Range is in our front yard. We live on a 2.5 acre parcel, and have six outbuildings, four of which are cabins. We are off-the-grid, meaning that we lack access to a conventional electrical source. Our electrical needs are primarily supplied by four solar panels and a wind generator. We also have a backup gas generator. We’ve become somewhat self-sustaining. We grow our own vegetables, produce our own honey, and made our own cheese and soap when Peaches (our goat) was producing milk. (In October, 2010 we were part of a solar homes tour. About 20 people toured the area homes by bus, and we were one of the stops. You can see a video of our place on You Tube.)
I’d always wanted to own my own horse. This was why I acted accordingly when the opportunity finally presented itself to me. My breed of choice was Icelandics. I first heard about them in the 1980s, when I was then the managing editor of Delta Junction-based Alaska Farm and Garden Magazine. These sturdy individuals were being used by Alaska natives for reindeer herding. At the same time Miki and Julie Collins, aka The Trapline Twins, purchased two Icelandics from the Icelandic horse farm, and by trailer, plane, and foot transported them to their family homestead in Lake Minchumina. I read of their accounts in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner newspaper, and like many, I was impressed by the fact that the Collins sister’s horses were hardy and had a good work ethic.
In 2003, I rode my bicycle from Montana to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on Adventure Cycling Continental Divide Bicycle Trail. I often thought it would be equally fun to ride it on horseback, since a good portion of the trail goes through stock country. But I dismissed the idea because I couldn’t picture myself owning horse, much less doing a long horseback trek.
One day, my neighbor Karen Hoppe, who was then horse hunting, suggested that we go and visit Bernie Willis’s Arctic Arrow Farm in Anchorage. (link to site)” Bernie spent the afternoon and early evening acquainting us both with the finer points of the breed. He first put Karen, and then me on Kolby, a small bay gelding. I then discovered something that I didn’t previously know, which is that Icelandic horses tolt. The tolt is a four beat, ground covering diagonal gait that is easy to sit. As I dismounted, Bernie remarked that Icelandics are easy to ride, but hard to ride well. These were words that, in the next few years, would come to mind repeatedly.
A few days later, I visited Virginia Crawford’s Alaskastadir Farm in Peters Creek. She introduced me to her herd of seven, and I immediately fell in love with Gerjun, a small sorrel mare with a snip of white on her nose. Her asking price was high, so Pete suggested that I take a closer look at her foal, a chestnut filly named Raudhetta, which in Icelandic means Little Red Riding Hood. Virginia said that the eight-month old filly was willful, and of strong character.
I had some horse experience, but as I soon learned, not quite enough. Raudi was difficult to ground train, and often got away from me when I took her for walks. Persistence and my having attended several TTeam clinics made all the difference in the world. It’s 2011. Raudi is now seven and on her way to becoming a very reliable trail horse.
Virginia’s purchase contract said that Raudi must have a companion. This was why, when the opportunity presented itself, we purchased Raudi’s six-month old half-brother. Icelandic horses are generally given a name that is representative of their character or appearance. Siggi Halastjarni. aka Ziggi Stardust, had, at birth, a zig-zag stripe on his back and a smattering of white hairs on his forehead.
Our third Icelandic is named Tinni, coal being the English translation of his Icelandic name. He’s black with no markings. We acquired him in May, 2006 shortly after his Anchorage-based owner, Katelyn Barnett, decided to go to Iceland and work on a horse farm. Tinni, now 21, is my steady Eddy, do-it-all under any circumstances riding horse. His other job is to keep Raudi and Siggi in line. Tinni has heaves, which is a respiratory ailment. The outward manifestation is a persistent cough. In addition to the horses, we acquired three chickens, three goats, and two dogs.
I presumed that I’d be doing the Divide Ride alone since Pete wasn’t all that into long horseback rides. However, in 2006 Pete decided to come along. This was because he and Siggi had then become buddies. This was fitting, since we’d previously done several lengthy bicycle and sea kayak trips together. We subsequently decided that I’d ride Raudi, and Pete would ride Siggi. And we’d of course take Rainbow and Jenna. My blog contains information about our trip preparations. In addition, I’ve provided information on how we’ve gone about conditioning and training our animals for our upcoming adventure.