First of all, there would never have even BEEN a Rally of the Lost Patrol if it hadn't been for Jerry Hines and the AlCan 5000 Rally/AlCan Winter Rally series that he started in 1984. Those events varied in their routes and formats, but all featured grand scenery and a chance to visit Alaska the hard way. 1988 saw the first running of the AlCan Winter Rally, which ended up near Calgary during the Winter Olympics. Thereafter the event alternated between summer and winter formats.
In the 1994 AlCan Winter Rally, during a side trip to Inuvik, some 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it was suggested that the Yukon and North West Territories were worthy of a bit more strenuous event. Since the AlCan 5000 Rally was not scheduled for 1995, certain veteran rallyists gave rise to the notion that I ("I mean, hell, Carlson, it ain't exactly like you haven't got the time!") could probably prepare The Mother of All Rallies (especially since I had developed a perhaps overblown reputation for offering comment and suggestions on any rally, anywhere, at any time). So, with the advice and counsel of a dozen of the best rallyists in the country, and the able assistance of Roy Ward, The Rally of the Lost Patrol took shape. The name comes from the legendary Lost Patrol, four doomed North West Mounted Police officers who perished in 1910 while trying to mush from Fort McPherson to Dawson City (hey, they missed a turn, and then refused to admit they were lost until it was too late: rally guys, right?)
1995 was also the first year of the four-year Klondike Gold Rush Centennial, a celebration put on by the Yukon Anniversaries Commission. We are pleased and privileged to be a small part of the centennial activities, and we hope to make the 1998 running of the Rally of the Lost Patrol the biggest and best event in the history of North American marathon rallying. Then the field reverts to the AlCan 5000 Rally again, with Jerry Hines planning a spectacular winter rally to be run in 2000.
Seattle's Steve Norman, who had been introduced to the sport when I navigated for him in the 1994 AlCan Winter Rally in his BMW 325iX, brought in rally legend Tom Grimshaw to navigate. But there are other rally legends loose in this country: Gene Henderson came from Michigan in his Subaru, with Ralph Beckman running the box. These veterans won the event by about half a minute over Walt Kammer and Jackie Adams of New York (Eagle Talon).
1995 was extremely cold in the "southern" sections, followed by fierce blizzards in the north. We were treated to whiteout conditions so intense that at one point three rally cars were following a man on foot, his bright red parka their only visual clue to staying on the road (and at that point, staying on time was the last thing on their minds!) In fact, the northernmost section of the route---75 miles up the frozen MacKenzie River to the village of Aklavik---was snowed in, along with every other road above the Arctic Circle, so we spent an extra night in Inuvik. The next day was dazzlingly clear.
Another marvelous feature of the rally, the awesome road between Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek in British Columbia, was an eye-opener: Covered with ice and snow, cliffs on one side and a 500-foot drop on the other, this road features grades of 18 and 20% and at least one switchback curve with a warning sign cautioning motorists to try a speed of 10 kilometers an hour. . . .
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unretouched photo of a whiteout on
Where 1995 had been cold, 1996 was warm. Too warm, in places; the warm rain falling on glare ice made the Blackwater Road section, normally a cakewalk, an absolute nightmare---and that was only on the second day. But by the time we reached the MacKenzie, we were running ahead of the weather: Clear and cold and an absolute joy for the Spirited Driver. (We seem to attract this species. . . .)
This year Steve Norman's iX was in the hands of Russ Huntoon and navigator Jack Christensen, who had to be favored in the navigation department because he invented the TimeWise rally computer. The pair wasted no time in taking the lead, although Gene Henderson (this time in a new Subaru Outback, navvied by Russ Kraushaar) was always dogging at the mud flaps of the potent BMW. The MacKenzie River, where we were forced to turn back in 1995 ("I thought this was supposed to be a memorial," moaned one driver, "not a re-enactment!"), was gloriously clear at 35 below: Miles and miles and miles of river ice, the road surface plowed 150 feet wide, gentle fourth-gear sweeping curves tightening into decreasing-radius challenges as the course followed the meanderings of the river. Totally cool! Totally sideways at. . . well, the speed limit on the river IS only 80 KPH. . . .
Behind Huntoon/Christensen in the red Bimmer and "Gene the Machine" Henderson/Squidboy Kraushaar in the Subaru (you might want to take a look at Subaru Motorsport to see some of the nifty bad rats Gene SHOULD have been driving!) came Mainer Gary Webb, navigation courtesy of Pete Schneider. For the second year, the team ran a rental four-wheel drive rig---but at least in 1996 they had their rally computer hooked up. Moreover, they were the only team that never slid off the road in 1996, even though they did break through the snow crust at the Arctic Circle and require a minor assist.
In 1996 the Telegraph Creek Road proved a tamer place as well: sunny skies, gorgeous scenery, mostly wet gravel and clay instead of snow and ice. The organisors, adjusting to the previous year's experience, had lowered the average speeds mandated on the road, so most of the challenge and anticipation (okay, fear) that surround this venue---70 miles out to Telegraph Creek, 70 miles back---was anticlimax. The road remains, however, a piece of work that makes Pike's Peak look like the Pasadena Freeway. That's why it comes late in the event: It demands seasoned veterans. We'll tinker with the speeds a bit for 1998, but a lot depends on the weather when we get there!
Well, we intend to spend 1997 planning to make sure that the Final Edition, the Lost Patrol '98, winds up the Klondike Gold Rush Centennial as the best possible rally we can produce---with a broad enough spectrum of classes and competitors to justify the commitment of the entrants, the workers, and the organizers.
This was the final chapter in the four-year saga. We're going to write it up any day now. . . it was swell!
The author is solely responsible for the contents of these pages and the opinions expressed herein. You may address suggestions, comments, and criticism to
Satch Carlson, PO Box 113087, Anchorage, AK 99511-3087 USA.