Alone Across Alaska

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

You would think being an Alaskan smokejumper would be adventurous enough. Not if you’re Bruce Nelson.

Bruce personifies adventure. Just take a quick look at some of the highlights from his outdoor adventure resume. He’s hiked the 2168 mile Appalachian Trail, bicycled coast-to-coast across the southern United States, canoed 2300 miles down the length of the Mississippi River, and has climbed Mt. McKinley (also known as Denali). Additionally, in what he described as “one of the great adventures of my life”, he walked and paddled over 1,000 miles across Alaska in the summer of 2006. Did I mention he did this alone?

Nelson lives the lifestyle. He recently retired from his smoke-jumping days, but he continues to live in his 16' X 20' cabin northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. He has an oil-burning stove and has all the normal comforts of home with the exception of running water.

His trek across Alaska was no ordinary adventure. Traveling from east to west, Nelson crossed the isolated northern section of Alaska, which took him across the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Brooks Mountain Range. There aren’t any trails or guide books to follow in this part of Alaska. Nelson essentially "winged it" by studying topographical maps.

It took him 77 days to complete his trek. He estimates that he hiked 615 miles and canoed about 403 miles down the Noatak River to the Bering Straight.

Here’s an excellent 3 minute trailer from his “Alone Across Alaska” DVD.

Alone Across Alaska: 1,000 Miles of Wilderness from on Vimeo.

Nelson’s Alaska trek isn’t his final adventure. He’s currently attempting to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), which runs more than 2500 miles along the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. He began his most recent adventure on May 1st at the Mexican border, and is currently in Montana with less than 430 miles to go. You can follow his progress at:

Jeff Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, hiking gear store, and more.


Anonymous said...

Anyone have any details on how he resupplied or other logistics of his trip like how he got his canoe to where he needed it. I know nothing about northern Alaska, but I'm sure it's not as easy logistic-wise as the App. Trail.

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Anon - According to Nelson's website, he and one of his smokejumping friends dropped food caches in several locations along the route - via airplane. They also dropped off an inflatible canoe at the headwaters of the Noatak River. The canoe was stored in a barrel underneath a tarp until he started that leg of his trip.

Nelson was then flown to his starting location that same day.