Five-month trek along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline nears the end – Alaska News

Five-month trek along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline nears the end

We will run out of even the infinite tundra soon after walking many miles


Ned Rozell photo

Justin Johnson, manager of Toolik Field Station.

SAGAVANIRKTOK RIVER – August, here so soon.

And we just passed trans-Alaska oil pipeline mile 100, which means that distance remains on our summer hike from Valdez to Prudhoe Bay. My dog Cora and I started walking on April 30, which means we’re in our fifth month of sleeping outside.

For this week, I’m hiking with Eric Troyer, who ran the White Mountains 100 race in less than two days this spring. I did the same thing a year before. I guess that means we can wrap this journey up by the weekend.

Not really. We’ve been walking about 10 miles each day. So, about 10 more days should do ‘er.

There are incentives to finish. Like when the wind dies, and the North Slope mosquitoes swarm and the gnats kamikaze your eyes and mouth. We were not late enough for the first freezes of Arctic fall to thin out the herd. Instead, we’ve had days reaching 60 degrees, when the convertible pants again revert to shorts. I did not think that would happen out here.

Now, it’s warm and spitting rain on the bank of the aquamarine Sagavanirktok River. The wind is strong enough to push the insects beyond my eddy. My seat is a cushion of moss, lupines, bearberry and nearby blueberries now ready to pick. Looking across the river, I see a bench covered with the variety of plants that make up tundra. It’s a carpet with a dozen shades of green. Crossing it is a group of 17 caribou. Their dark, moving dots resemble bison on the Great Plains.

Thirty miles away at Toolik Field Station, where manager Justin Johnson…

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