Twenty years ago a young science writer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute took off on foot from Valdez, Alaska to follow the Trans-Alaska Pipeline north to Prudhoe Bay. Permission was late in coming. He received a permit from Alyeska Pipeline Service Company just days before his departure. For the next four months Ned Rozell forded steams, climbed mountains, avoided bears, braved swarms of mosquitoes and met a diverse and quirky series of individuals who had property near the pipeline corridor. He wasn’t alone. His sturdy Labrador Retriever Jane joined him on the journey. Periodically, friends and family would join the pair and walk a section of the 800 mile hike. His trek was captured at first in a series of columns and later in a book called, appropriately enough, Walking My Dog Jane.
In 1997 when that trek occurred, Ned was 34. In the intervening years he married Kristen and they have a 10 year old daughter named Anna. By all rights, Ned should be a comfortably settled middle-ager negotiating nothing more demanding than a recliner. Instead, earlier this month he took off to retrace his path up Alaska, this time joined by a new canine companion, 3-year old Cora, a Lab-heeler mix. Kristen and Anna are also planning to share some miles with the pair.
I spoke with Ned before he left. I wanted to know why he was hiking again a trek most of us wouldn’t tackle once.