Roger Phillips from NatGeo Website – Photo by NGC – Peter Bobrow
Many people have a dream, but 54-year old freight hauler Roger Phillips lives his. From a young age he swore he’d become a mountain man, and after a life in construction with a small business, a stable family and 6 grandkids, Roger and his wife sold out from North Baltimore, Ohio and moved north to Skwentna, Alaska.
They now live 57 miles from the nearest road and, when winter comes around, Roger braves the frozen Yentna River on his snowmachine to haul in the supplies that he and his fellow off-gridders need to survive. He’s modified his 1100 c.c. vehicle with extra suspension, and added 200 steel spikes to the drive belt for improved traction, all of which helps him pull loads of 3000 pounds up and down the ice trail — and make it look easy.
But don’t be fooled – there are accidents on the river every year, and even Roger’s fallen through the ice, snapped his front skis, flipped head-over-heels, and sailed through his windshield more than enough times. Life on the river changes every day: the ice moves, the trail shifts, water levels rise and fall, and the cargo’s always different. And even though Roger makes life-or-death decisions every time he risks the ice, he knows the river is in charge – he’s just along for the ride.
NatGeo Dead End Express
Dead End Express – June 25, 2015 Episode –
Freight hauler Roger Phillips battles a troublesome delivery; dog mushers Jeff and Paul Hemann set up the wilderness for a wedding; jet boat pilot Brice Barnes risks life and limb to collect a season’s worth of firewood.
Here is some conversation (via email) that Roger and I had shared previously on TheNBXpress.com:
I asked Roger how “Global Warming” and the excessive rise in Sea Level that is theorized, might effect his life:
First, we are located about 100′ above sea level. It would take one heck of a change to affect us here. It could possibly slow the river flow speed a little bit and I don’t know what that would do to Salmon fishing patterns, but I doubt it would do anything. ?
How has moving to Alaska affected your health?
Roger said – Weight is down about 20 lbs, I am OFF of ALL Blood Pressure and Irregular Heart Beat medication and my sugar levels have been in the normal range for over a year with no medication. You can print/publicize this.
I asked Roger how one would go about visiting Alaska in his area:
Visiting is a great question and it involves some personal preferences. I enjoy winter more than summer here in the bush because we can get around everywhere on snowmachines and there is more freedom, i.e. not locked to the water system. Mid February to Late March is the most moderate temperatures and best (sunniest) weather. As for lodging, it is less expensive in the winter also.
Summer offers the best road system travel, access to Denali National park (closed in winter) and the most “regular” tourist activities. Of course Salmon fishing is one of the most popular activities, also the “Alaska Train rides” Glacier viewing, Whale watching and on and on. Most people visit in the summer because they are afraid of the “Alaska Cold”.
I am here to tell you the winters don’t have bugs, the late winter weather is beautiful if you like snow and there is lots of out door opportunities if you enjoy winter outdoor activities, as I do.
I asked about costs so such an adventure (this was about three years ago – maybe – so inflation may have changed these prices ~ JP) Lodging cost, Summer the average normal hotel rate even for a Super 8 is about $200 a night. Winter time closer to $100.. Lodging in the bush varies even more. In the winter time It is typically around $85 per person per night. In the summer it gets closer to $200 per night per person. Meals and amenities are included in most lodge rates while hotels are still hotels.
A summer guided fishing trip in my area varies from lodge to lodge. The Skwentna Roadhouse (great owners, addequit accommodations) right across the river from me runs about $400 per person per day and Northwoods Lodge (premier accommodations) where I care-take and guide the most for, runs about $975 per night per person. Air-fair to Alaska is also just about double in the summer. $750 in winter and $1500 summer.
A guided snowmachine tour (in winter of course) is about $400 per person for a single day and about $550 per person per day (including meals and accommodations) for multi-day trips with the company I guide for.
The Alaska experience is priceless and will change the rest rest of your life, just ask me !
Tune in to the National Geographic Channel for the premiere of Dead End Express on the NatGeo Channel. Remember to tune in June 25 for Roger’s episode.