Arranging Dogsled Treks Is Sourdough's Bread and Butter

Reed Travel Features

BETTLES -- Only the hardiest souls need apply for a place on the tours of Sourdough Outfitters, an operator based here in this tiny village north of the Arctic Circle.

Sourdough offers some of the most rugged programs on the market anywhere -- dogsledding in the snowy winter wastes of the Brooks Mountain Range and the Gates of the Arctic wilderness.

They are not, admittedly, as taxing as the famous annual Iditarod dog sled race, known as the Last Great Race, that takes the dog teams more than 1,000 miles from the ceremonial start in the streets of downtown Anchorage to the Norton Sound community of Nome.

But participants in Sourdough Outfitters' tours cannot help but develop a deep respect for the mushers -- as the dog team drivers are called -- who compete in the Iditarod.

Mushing is hard work, and only the strongest outdoors adventurers can hope to enjoy the Sourdough product.

The least demanding of the tours is a mere six days long and covers only 100 miles from Bettles through the spectacular mountains and forests of the central portion of the Brooks Range.

By the end of each day (a 20- or 25-mile leg), most participants are only too glad to curl up in their rustic wilderness cabin or heated tent.

Departures are scheduled from February through April at a price of $1,800 per person.

As is the case with all Sourdough itineraries, the price includes Fairbanks-Bettles roundtrip air, meals, lodging, Arctic gear and training.

There is a maximum of six people per tour, and each group is accompanied by an experienced Arctic guide.

An eight-day, 150-mile Gates of the Arctic tour costs $2,200 per person and features tent accommodations throughout.

The most demanding of Sourdough's three tours is an eight-day, 150-mile trek through the treeless, wind-swept slopes of the northern part of the Brooks Range.

So forbidding is the terrain that this tour is not scheduled until mid-April, by which time winter has eased its grip.

The tour costs $2,250 per person.

For information, write to Sourdough Outfitters at Box 90, Bettles, Alaska 99726 or call (907) 692-5252; fax (907) 692-5621.

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