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Wrangell - St. Elias 1995

North to Alaska

When we were putting together this web site originally, there is only so much writing one can do. Fortunately, our good friend Will Skelton had written up his journal for the trip, and so it seemed logical to post his journal. I did a journal as well, and some day, when I have nothing else to do, I will type it up and post it here in addition to Willís report. In the meantime, enjoy his view of things.

Friday, August 18   I get a yearning to go back to Alaska periodically, having been there four times since 1989 and having had experiences like no where else. It's such a huge, wild land, as close to a frontier as can be found in the 1990's. I promoted a trip to southern Alaska this time (always the northern, Arctic before) and got nine others to go along.

Several new people on the trip. Regina is a college roommate of Barbara's at Ole Miss who now lives in western Colorado - they've stayed close, talking by phone frequently (and Regina writes letters, but saves them up and mails a bunch together). Tom has, for some reason decided to start going on these trips with Barbara A -- always before he stayed home and played golf. Anne went with me and others on the Patagonia trip several years ago and has been talking about another trip ever since. She'd "signed up" for several trips but always backed out when something came up. Everyone expected her to drop out again, but she's going. Everyone's from the Knoxville area except Regina and Anne.

We are getting to Anchorage by various routes, but everyone is to end up at the Super 8 Motel late tonight. Barbara and I had a tough departure, actually mainly Barbara. By some strange, weird coincidence, two of her three cats have apparently met tragedy in the last few days. "640," the 10-year old black one found in the middle of an exit lane from I-640, has been losing weight for months, but we thought it was her being more active in her new house (my house) with stairs. But, last weekend, she seemed sluggish too; and Tuesday night, it was obvious something was wrong. So to Drs. Butler and Butler Wednesday morning -- she's got feline leukemia and is unlikely to live long. Not much Barbara can do, so she decided to go on as planned, but got another bank employee to house sit and, if necessary, pick 640 up; otherwise, she'll stay at the vets' with Barbara's request that they keep her alive if possible until she gets back. Barbara spent a while with her this afternoon. And, if that wasn't enough, Wednesday night Varmint, the aggressive 14-year old cat who used to chase dogs away and seems to like me most, disappeared. Barbara looked, I rode my bike all around Thursday night, we drove around, but no Varmint. I made some "Lost Cat" notices with her photograph on the Xerox today at work, and we tacked them up around the neighborhood. But chances of her returning from wherever aren't good. Barbara is obviously depressed but nothing I can do to fix it.

I remember once at Surgoinsville Methodist Church giving a talk and saying that whatever goes wrong, however bad your situation, there's always someone else worse off. To prove that point, Barbara at the airport told us she'd been up since yesterday when her mother had a heart attack. Apparently she's doing well, and BA is still going. BA's father is also dying of cancer, but she isn't close to him.

But what about Alaska? We're going to Wrangell - St. Elias National Park (and Preserve, the latter being a portion that allows hunting and which is located outside the inner core we're going to). It's the biggest of our Parks (bigger than 14 Yosemites and the size of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined), has 9 of the 16 highest peaks in the US, and contains a single glacier bigger than Rhode Island. The adjacent Kluane National Park in Canada makes it even bigger. Only 45,000 people visited it in 1992, versus over 10 million to the Smokies. We're going to hike the "Goat Trail," a historic route into the interior used by Athapaskan Indians and later by prospectors in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Now it's considered one of the very best backpacking "routes" (there really isn't a trail except in a few places) in Alaska. The "Goat Trail" now often refers only to the really bad part of the route, about half way through.

In Seattle, Barbara and I join up with the Barbara A , Tom, s, Ray and Dolph who went via Dallas, while we went via Atlanta. By the time we arrive in Anchorage just past midnight, we're all pretty tired -- it's 4 am eastern time. Regina is waiting for us at the airport having flown from Denver. Roger and Susie are at the motel, having already spent a week car camping with daughter Erin in Denali National Park; Anne also came in earlier in the evening. Our motel is the Super 8 Motel on Minnesota Avenue, simply adequate and no more. Ray and the check-in clerk argue a bit over our reservations made by Ray. Ann checked into a room with one bed, when she was supposed to room with Regina, upsetting the room assignments. Ray didn't realize at first what had happened and was a bit testy. But finally, we worked it out, with Regina staying in a 2nd bed in Barbara's and my room. We repacked everything and finally got to bed after 2 am.

Next day

© William H. Skelton, 1995