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Update: Halfway Through an Extreme Alaska Trek

BRAND: This is Day to Day. From NPR News.

(Soundbite of Artic Wolf Barking)


That's an artic wolf barking. It was recorded by Ryan Jordan in the Alaskan wilderness. Sixteen days ago, Jordan and two companions set out on foot to cross the longest stretch of wilderness in the United States. They are carrying everything they need to survive for the duration of trek, including all their food.


We spoke with Ryan Jordan on this program before he embarked on the expedition. He was forced to quit last week when he injured his ankle. But the journey continues for his two companions. Yesterday, we got a call from the tundra. It was Roman Dial on a satellite phone. He's one of the trekkers still in the wild.

Mr. ROMAN DIAL (Arctic 1000 Expedition Member): We're camped on a gravel(unintelligible), about 50-feet from a rushing, clear water stream. And we're probably, I'd say, 120 miles from the nearest village in every direction. And that would be Atqasuk or Ambler or Umiat(ph). And we're 1.2 miles from the most remote place in the United States. And it's a really beautiful scene.

CHADWICK: When I first spoke with Ryan Jordan about this trek of yours, he said this was the point you were going to try to get to, the most remote place you figure in all of North America.

Mr. DIAL: Yes, we made it. It's taken us 15 days and 320 miles of walking to get here. And our feet our sore, but we're really happy to be here.

CHADWICK: I've been reading your updates that you're posting, blogs and notes, to a site that we'll link to at npr.org. And you described swimming across the Colville River. When you're going to cross this river, you have to carry everything that you can. You described this very clever that you managed to do it. Just tell - tell people how you did that, will you?

Mr. DIAL: We have our backpacks are a little more than harnesses for what river runners and other outdoor people call a drybag. And a drybag is a coated nylon bag that has closure that keeps water out. And we also took our water bottles, which are flat plastic bags with lids essentially, and blew air into those. And we had the flat plastic bags filled with olive oil, half filled, and we put air in those.

So we put as much buoyancy as we could into our drybags sealed them up, and then blew air into them so they were like a big pillow, if you will, a big inflatable pillow. It worked really well, except for the high winds were kind of grabbing my - it was a like a raft and pushing me downstream whether I wanted to - but yeah, we're great. We got out, everything was dry, and we were safe. It was excellent.

CHADWICK: Even in summer, I would imagine that a river way out in really northwest Alaska most be awfully cold.

Mr. DIAL: Both Jason and I were surprised that we didn't notice the cold. I think it's mostly because we were - were maybe just excited and jacked up about getting across this big river.

CHADWICK: What has been hardest about this walk so far?

Mr. DIAL: Well, I'd say the first thing that comes to mind, the hardest thing was having Ryan fry out. Because we had a lot invested together emotionally in this, and I know that he really wanted to come along. And it was great to have him here. And that was really hard to have Ryan leave. And then mentally challenging is dealing with these (unintelligible), these big tundra heads with weak necks that we kind of stumble through hours on end sometimes.

CHADWICK: You describe an encounter with a wolf. This wolf, as you describe, is walking along and watching you, but maybe stalking you, too.

Mr. DIAL: Yes, we saw a wolf that maybe was stalking - I thought maybe it was trying to slink away from us. And then we spotted it, we howled at it, called to it, and howled at. And then started to howl and call back and then ran along the ridge and followed us for at least 20 minutes while we walked in the valley below.

I think it was just curious about us. Grizzly bears are curious, too.

CHADWICK: This is - the grizzlies are curious, too. What's the biggest grizzly that you've seen and when did you last see it?

Mr. DIAL: Well the biggest grizzly - they always look biggest when they're closest. Though, the biggest grizzly we saw was about 25 yards away, sleeping when I kind of woke it up. And it looked at me and I took two steps back, hoping that Ryan was right next to me. I didn't know he was so far back. He had the bear spray, and then Ryan and Jason came up to me and we stood and yelled at the bear, and the bear stood up. It must've been 600 pounds. It was a big grizzly, but we yelled at it and finally it left and circled around and went up on the ridge. And then, as we hiked on, we hurried out of there, we came across a moose kill, it had killed a moose and was probably guarding it.

CHADWICK: Roman Dial, half of the Arctic 1000 Expedition team. The duo is on the longest unsupported trek of the Alaskan wilderness. Roman, thanks, and we'll check in with you again.

Mr. DIAL: All right. Thanks, Alex. It was great talking to you.

CHADWICK: And you can view a map of the trekkers' route across wild Alaska at our web site, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.