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Sole Trekker Completes 600-Mile Wilderness Hike


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick.

In June, three men set out to walk across 600 miles of Alaskan wilderness and they set themselves some rules, as they would go. They would not forage, or hunt, or receive food deliveries of any kind, along the way. They would carry everything they needed.

Last week, Roman Dial actually managed to complete this great trek. He joins us now from the studios of Alaska Public Radio, in Anchorage, where he lives.

Roman, welcome home and welcome back to DAY TO DAY.

Mr. ROMAN DIAL (Hiker): Thanks, Alex. It's good to be back.

CHADWICK: This was, you think, the longest unsupported trek ever, at least across North America - the longest that you know of.

Mr. DIAL: Well, on foot. I know that other people have dragged sleds behind skis or in boats, farther, but this is a long backpacking trip, and as far as I know, it is the longest unsupported backpacking trek that's been done here in North America.

CHADWICK: You and your two companions, Ryan Jordan and Jason Geck, made this. Ryan had to drop out, fairly early on, because he hurt his ankle. He got flown out from an airstrip. You reached a town, actually, very near the end of your trek, and Jason flew home from there because he had appointments he had to make, but you actually made it the entire way.

Mr. DIAL: Yep, I did. And it felt good to actually finish it. If I hadn't carried a three-pound camera, I could have carried three pounds more of food, and I probably could have squeezed another 70 miles out of this whole trip.

CHADWICK: Wow. So what do you learn from this, from crossing 600 miles of this terrific wilderness? In the midst of this, you say you got as far as you possibly could in North America from a village. You were 120 miles from the nearest village, and you kept going.

Mr. DIAL: Yep. I guess - What did I learn? I learned a lot of different things. I learned that you can walk a long ways, carrying all your own food and equipment, in Alaska, and you can move fairly quickly.

You know, while I was out there, I thought a lot about the people I'd left at home and people I'd known in the past. And so when I got home, I made a lot of phone calls just to get back in touch with people, and spend some time with my family.

You know, I was able to touch a spiritual side of myself while I was out there. It was really a remarkable trip.

CHADWICK: There were bears that you encountered along the way, and wolves, and mosquitoes. What was the greatest thing that you overcame, do you think?

Mr. DIAL: I think that the most difficult thing to overcome, was crossing the Coville River. And then the last obstacle, I guess, would be when we reached Anaktuvuk Pass. Jason was intending to fly out and he wanted to get a hotel and get something to eat, and saying no to that was impossible.

CHADWICK: So you actually stop in this village, which you came along the way, but when you got there, you bartered some food that you had for what?

Mr. DIAL: A bacon cheeseburger.

CHADWICK: A bacon cheeseburger. And it had been what? You were three weeks trekking at that point, and I bet that was a pretty good cheeseburger.

Mr. DIAL: Oh, it was delicious. It was about the most solid food I'd chewed in all those three weeks, and it was excellent.

CHADWICK: And after that, back out on the road, this by yourself, and passing through wilderness and forests with bears in them, and now you were alone.

Mr. DIAL: Yep. It was quite a different experience to be alone. The river crossings took on a new significance, and the sign of bear on bear trails, also, being alone I felt much more vulnerable. But it was a nice ending to this trip that I'd been thinking about, for about two years now, and it was a good time for reflection.

CHADWICK: Is this something you would ever do again, Roman?

Mr. DIAL: You know, Alex, while I was out there, I said this is it. I'm not going to do it again. And when I got to the Haul Road and I realized I had some more food, and I realized that I could probably go 700 miles, I've thought about it and decided that nope, I'm never going to try this again. Once is enough.

CHADWICK: Roman Dial, at the end of the great wilderness trek through Alaska, joined along the way by Ryan Jordan and Jason Geck. Roman, congratulations.

Mr. DIAL: Thank you, Alex.

CHADWICK: And dear listeners, there's a really interesting blog from this trek, and we have a link to it at our Web site, Go there, you can find pictures and stories of all the great adventures. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.