July 4, 2006: Dalton Highway, Mile Post 226
The cabin at Summit Lake, astride the Arctic Divide, is little more than a hollowed-out framed shell. Both windows were missing all their glass. The door, held shut with a rock, was missing its bottom quarter, eaten through by ground squirrels and bears.
I brushed aside some squirrel turds and settled on a plywood bench, exhausted.
The temperature was in the 20s.
I climbed into my sleeping clothes and got a fitful five hours of cold, uncomfortable sleep.
Nearby were two sets of tents. In the morning, I found that one held a trio of geology graduate students sampling lake cores for a climate change study. The other set of tents was filled by ten Boy Scouts, who didn't get up until after I'd left.
Today was sunny with building clouds. I hurried over tussocks to the far side of the pass. Without Jason, it was hard to judge my speed.
Doonerak, the most prominent peak in the area, loomed its menacing north face over my walk.
I cut a corner and tried to stay high, but was forced into brush and sidehilling.
There were no caribou trails, just thin, multi-use trails used by moose, wolf, bear - fresh bear. It made me nervous. In fact, all day I'd been nervous - criss-crossing streams, stumbling over rocks, charging down bear trails - alone. Alone, even the simplest mistake here is potentially serious. A swim, a trapped foot, a bear.
My feet ached deeply.
My infections healed, but a new problem had arisen in Anaktuvuk Pass - one inch splits on the soles of my feet, making them tender. All day, when faced with walking over fat, hard cobble rocks, or soft, slow sidehilling, I chose sidehilling. Until near the end, when I thought about Jason. During our long walks together, when our destination was near and the walking bad, Jason would fire it up and say, "I just want to get this one over with!" So I shook off my self-pitying limp, and fired it up, strided out.
I reached the Dalton Highway just after midnight, some 600 miles and 23 days, 8 hours, since Kivalina.
- Roman Dial