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Day 9

Bailey Range 1996

Dodger Lakes to Whiskey Bend

I had set the alarm for 6 am, and Susie and I broke camp, while we heated water for coffee and cocoa. It had dropped to 25 degrees that nite, and frost covered everything. Even my wet camp shoes had frozen. We were underway by 7:25 or so, and headed like the proverbial bats from hell down the easy trail. The Long Ridge Trail is one of the most well graded trails I have ever been on. But it is very long. Really long. An aptly named trail. Regina passed us soon, and she was really booking. Dolph did too, but he stopped to cook some grits along the way. We made it to the Elwha River hiker's bridge for lunch, and the Whiskey bend trail head by 1:30. Our feet were sore from having covered so much ground so fast. Not used to it after a weekly average of 0.75 miles per hour.

A couple of observations: First, this is a superb trip if you can deal with the physical challenge and occasional exposure. I do not know of another place that is better if you cross scenery, wildlife, great campsites, and lack of difficult breathing (due to low altitude). But it ain't easy. You can do it in less time, but why spend only 5 minutes eating at a banquet. Relax (if you can) and enjoy it. Secondly, this crew moved much slower than the '87 graduates. One of the factors may have been that all the folks on this trip had done the Chitistone Canyon trip in Wrangell-St. Elias in '95. This route requires crossing the "Goat Trail," which is perhaps 1.3 miles (2 hours) of walking with a very high level of continual exposure. Will and his wife Barbara had both taken a fall on that trip near the end of the Goat Trail, and while they sustained no serious injuries, I think it left an impression with all of us. If you are to survive on difficult backpacking routes, it is essential to slow down, and pick every step to make sure it is the best. The consequence of not doing so can be fatal.

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1996