An intrepid group including an American woman, two Frenchmen and two horses spent three months crossing Alaska this summer.
The inspiration behind the trip came from Laurent Granier, who had wanted to cross Alaska with horses ever since he was a child. As the group began to plan the trip, it dawned that they were following a similar route as the pioneers had and were facing similar dangers along the way.
Megan Son, 31, explains: We wanted to build a project, something memorable. We wanted to travel for the sake of doing something, rather than just sightseeing, and to see a place in a different way.
The group left from Valdez in the south in July and travelled in a north-westerly direction, arriving at Prudhoe Bay at the end of September.
We were very worried about our safety, explains Megan, and concerned about wildlife, especially bears, and about the weather. They say there are four seasons in Alaska: June, July, August and winter. To begin with on the trip there was 24-hour daylight but as we went north it became autumn and then winter. We experienced all types of weather including snow.
We bought an 11-year-old appaloosa gelding called Boogie, and Chuvelle, a five-year-old paint mare, out in Alaska. We had initially intended to ride them in rotation but we found we couldnt cover that much distance, as they couldnt walk all day carrying our weight, so we mostly used them as pack ponies.
We bought Chuvelle because she was beautiful but we did pay for her lack of experience. We had to constantly look out for things that might spook her, whereas Boogie was much more relaxed. Their attitudes rubbed off on each other.
Phillipe, Laurent and Megan slept in tents at night, and tethered the horses between trees or bushes. Megan continues: That worked out ok although we did worry about them getting caught up. We tried to make sure we stopped places with enough grass for them, and we fed them alfalfa pellets and a supplement.
Overall it was a positive experience for all of us. It was hard for me sometimes, as I only speak a little French and the men had been travelling together for three years, so they have certain systems. We had some difficulties understanding each other. But my best memory is of finishing, reaching our goal, especially as we had survived temperatures down to -15 C.
The beauty of Alaska is indescribable, and it is very isolated, adds Megan. It gives you an amazing feeling of freedom to be in a place where there is no traffic and there is just you and your friends and your horses. It is awe-inspiring.