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Pinell Trail

Stephanie followed me to Eagle Summit, a two hour drive from Fairbanks, where we parked the Trooper (putting the key in a small pocket of my backpack) and then rode back to Twelve Mile Summit where she was to drop me off for my hike alone across the Pinnell Trail. Before she left, we opened a bottle of wine, munched on some cheese and crackers, and enjoyed some time goofing and laughing together. She stood there by the car and watched for a while as I climbed the first hill up the trail before she drove back to Fairbanks.

The first day, as I walked I kept thinking about Tobias and wondering how he was. I expected he was probably turning black and blue with at least one black eye from his fall down the stairs of our UAF apartment that morning. We rushed him to the pediatrician, but the boy appeared to be fine. No blood, no broken bones. I love that boy completely. And that is one of the good things about being alone: it gives a person a chance to think about his life and the people in it. It’s weird, but as I hiked along, mile after mile, I was thinking about just about every person I know, like some kind of random Rolodex of the mind, including people I haven’t seen or talked to in years.

Walking the Pinnell Trail reminded me of the Grand Canyon. It has that same endlessly expansive vista. There are some differences, but I wonder if the White Mountains don’t win out in comparison. So imagine the Grand Canyon. Now imagine that all of the layers, lines and hard angles have been blurred by a cosmic finger smear across the sketch pad of creation, leaving all rounded and smooth edges that blend warmly from one layer to the next. No RV’s, no helicopters, no lines, no litter. Just gorgeous solitude.

On the second day, I imagined an elaborately embellished event wherein a military jet, of the kind that often fly training missions over this area, encountered a mechanical emergency that caused the pilot to eject and abandon this airplane to a fiery, smoking comet that eventually slammed into the side of a nearby ridge. While the resulting fireball plumed into the air and eventually subsided into a pile of steadily burning rubble, the pilot floated gently down on the fully inflated canopy of a white military parachute. Being the only person around to witness this event, I walked over to the place where this pilot settled to earth, and having nowhere else to be just then, I shared a recently filled Nalgene of water and an energy bar with this understandably rattled but otherwise unharmed pilot. 

The walk was a relatively leisurely three days: twenty seven miles. It was a good experience, and I didn’t pass another person in that whole time. At the end of the third day, I arrived at Eagle Summit, wishing the trip had taken just a little longer. Been a little further. When I walked up to the Trooper, I fished into my pack to discover that the key to the Trooper was missing. I also discovered the hole in the pocket through which they key had escaped. Luckily, a couple from Kansas were parked in their camper nearby. They had a wire hanger with which I managed to unlock the Trooper and retrieve the beer I had stashed there three days before: my reward for a hike completed.

Though I managed to unlock the doors, I still did not have a key with which to start the Trooper and drive home. Luckily (again), a young woman came by who had driven up to Eagle Summit to see the midnight sun on the night of the solstice. She told me she planned to camp there overnight, but that if I didn’t mind waiting until the next day, she’d be glad to give me a ride to Fairbanks. And so I spent one more night, camping, watching the sun slide across the horizon as a small group of caribou traced a distance ridge against the fading sky.  

Posted on Monday, June 25, 2007 at 09:42PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | CommentsPost a Comment

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