The Days When Dog Teams Were Used Between Roadhouses On Alaska's Winter Roads

Dog Teams Hauled Supplies From The Copper Valley's Roadhouses & Trading Posts

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Dog team crossing sign in rural Alaska.

1995 Interview With Sy Neeley Of Glennallen, Alaska

"When I lived at Chistochina, when I was growing up, the teams that came around there were work teams. They were hauling their summer groceries back to wherever they came from -- Chisana, Nabesna -- from Chistochina Trading Post. 

"My Dad had the trading post there. Bob Dittman's aunts owned the old Gulkana Lodge, prior to Ken O'Hara. Ken O'Hara had the bus line that came from Anchorage to Fairbanks. It was a two-day trip. There was no 60-miles-an-hour on the road in those days. It used to take my dad an hour from Chistochina to Gakona Lodge.

"They were big teams. Big, heavy dogs. If they didn't get somewhere between 75 and 115 lbs. they got rid of them. They were big work dogs. They were like Clydesdales and Percherons -- you don't take Arabians out in the field.

Chistochina Trading Post. Photo by
"The roads weren't open all the time in those days. The roads were closed in the winter time. We had a team when we came to the roadhouse in Chistochina, in 1942. Hank Read had a boarding program there. Took care of dogs -- $5 a dog per month. The Lodge had their own dogs there. 

"When we came there was a little over 100 dogs there, when we got there. That's the first thing my Dad did. Inform Hank Read that the dogs would have to go. My Dad didn't like that many dogs around. They weren't loose, by the way. They were all tied up or in pens. Dad didn't go for all that noise.

Modern-day sled dogs in Chistochina, Alaska. 
(Photo, courtesy Evelyn Beeter)
"We came from Valdez up here. We came from Sitka to Valdez. We slowly worked our way up north. Dad got as far as Chistochina. He said that was far enough north for him. He wasn't going any farther. It's not even close to the same country now as it was then. 

"In those days you could leave your gear where you dropped it on the side of the road. Everything was safe. Our country has changed very rapidly. It started changing the time of statehood, or after statehood. It really started to change after the Second World War. It seemed like it was no time at all until 1969, until the Pipeline started to arrive. Since that time, now it has changed dramatically. One thing I see is the community has become a very transient community..."

© Copper River Country Journal, January 19, 1995, Linda Weld, Editor
All rights reserved, including photographs and maps.

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