Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic Channels
"Dead End Express"
Premieres Thursday, May 7, at 10/9c on National Geographic Channel
Across the vast and untamed wildernesses of the U.S., a hardy breed of American still lives a life set apart. Not just off the beaten path, these families and individuals are physically cut off from society by Rocky Mountains, roaring rivers and frozen tundra. However self-sufficient they might be, no man is an island, and sooner or later, those isolated in these remote locales must replenish their diminishing resources, whether fuel or ammo, or life-saving essentials like food and medicine.
Dead End Express follows five rugged adventurers as they live and breathe the high-stakes life of hauling critical cargo into treacherous tracts of wilderness. Produced for National Geographic Channel by Original Media, the new series premieres Thursday, May 7, at 10/9c.
By packhorse, dogsled, powerboat, snowmobile or bush plane, this fearless group of men risks all to deliver supplies where no one else can or will.
From the dense woodlands of Montana’s Flathead National Forest, to the isolated heart of Idaho’s Hells Canyon, to the frozen wastelands of Alaska’s high tundra, these true American adventurers live their lives on the edge — sometimes literally — and they’ve got the guts to go the distance, delivering supplies to an eccentric and ever-changing cast of fellow off-gridders.
With the spirit of a true outdoor adventurer, Brice Barnes has been braving the rapids of Hells Canyon since he was just 13 years old. He designed and built his jet boat from scratch, and with its flat-bottom hull and twin Chevy 350 engines, it’s the perfect craft for this rocky stretch of the Snake River. With his passion for the water, Brice puts his can-do spirit and sheer guts to good use recovering sunken boats or hauling cargo.
The go-to guy for the jobs that make other packers go pale, Andy Breland knows the wilderness of the Flathead National Forest like the backs of his hands, which are as tough as old leather. He’s spent two decades working with packhorses, braving Montana’s untamed trails to make his deliveries. Andy’s packing partner, Chuck Allen, is known for having a heart of gold, but don’t let that fool you — this Montana native is as sturdy as they come. Chuck usually leads the pack string, calling out the hazards before they hit, while Andy brings up the rear, keeping careful watch on the horses and their cargo. That means teamwork is this pair’s greatest ally, not only to complete the job, but also to survive the journey.
One of the last frontier’s true pioneers, Rob Kinkade has been a pilot for over 20 years. And in a place where rough landing is a fine art, he’s the master. With his bush-flying skills, he can haul cargo anywhere he can land his 1946 Piper PA-12, a plane he’s owned for 18 years and modified to the hilt. The extended wings, increased horsepower, cockpit skylight and oversized “tundra tires” have all been added with one thing in mind: making short takeoffs and off-road landings on this unforgiving Alaskan terrain. No runway is no problem for Rob — it’s all part of the fun.
Many people have dreams, but 54-year-old freight hauler Roger Phillips lives his. From a young age, he swore he’d become a mountain man, and he and his wife now live 57 miles from the nearest road. When winter comes around, Roger braves Alaska’s frozen Yentna River on his snowmobile to haul in the supplies that he and his fellow off-gridders need to survive. Roger makes life-or-death decisions every time he risks the ice, but he knows the river is in charge — he’s just along for the ride.
Dog musher Jeff Hemann is lucky to have found his calling at a young age. And with 30 huskies now under his command, he is the master of his art. Over the past nine years, he’s bred his pack from the finest pedigree of world-class runners, and these dogs can pull twice their body weight at speeds up to 25 mph, in subzero conditions. Jeff’s father, 57-year-old Paul Hemann, followed his son into the dog-mushing world, finally fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming an Alaskan adventurer. A 7th Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo, Paul taught martial arts at the highest level, and his physical stamina helps him through long dogsled rides in the wilderness. You could say his mushing skills are still improving, but his bond with the huskies runs deep.
Premiere episodes include:
Dead End Express: Welcome to the Wilderness
Premieres Thursday, May 7, 2015, at 10/9c
In Hells Canyon, Idaho, jet boat pilot Brice Barnes responds to an emergency message from his friend Jason and must brave the rapids of the Snake River just as the sun is setting. Meanwhile, in Aniak, Alaska, bush pilot Rob Kinkade makes an emergency medicine delivery to his off-gridder friend Jim Smith, aka “Wildman,” and tackles a hazardous landing strip in the high tundra. In Montana, horse packers Andy Breland and Chuck Allen battle steep switchbacks and rainstorms to carry supplies up a mountain to a team restoring an old fire lookout cabin. When they arrive, they get the news that another fire tower is in trouble, and the pair must take on a new challenge, racing against time and the elements.
Dead End Express: Fire in the Canyon
Premieres Thursday, May 14, 2015, at 10/9c
In Montana, Andy and Chuck team up with Toby Tabor from the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, racing a cargo of live fish up to an alpine lake before the oxygen in the tanks runs out. In Aniak, Alaska, bush pilot Rob makes an airdrop for some stranded campers low on rations, before heading out into the wilderness to check up on an elderly off-gridder who hasn’t been heard from lately. And in Idaho, jet boat pilot Brice helps rebuild a homestead destroyed by wildfire, rescues a driverless boat drifting close to a rapid and learns the hard way how the Snake River got its name.
Dead End Express: Stranded in the Tundra
Premieres Thursday, May 21, 2015, at 10/9c
In Montana, horse packers Andy and Chuck answer an SOS call from a diabetic friend stuck in the wilderness without his medical supplies. On the way, they hit a snag when they meet another packer heading in the opposite direction on the narrow trail. In Idaho, jet boat pilot Brice agrees to take off-gridder Bill Grasser deep into the heart of Hells Canyon, then helps start restoring the historic Sheeps Creek Ranch. And in Alaska, Rob Kinkade transports a gold prospector to the wilderness, but the heavy equipment forces him to carry less gasoline. When Rob stops off at a remote operations base for refueling, there’s a surprise waiting that keeps him stranded.