Gates of the Arctic: What was supposed to be a short run

Most mornings I am the first one out of bed, especially in the cold weather. As soon as I start to wake up I would rather be outside moving around than huddled in my bag being slightly cold. I kick many mornings off with a morning hike or run, it’s not only a great way to see the park it’s a great way to get your blood pumping.

I woke up, packed up my sleeping bag and sleeping pad and started in on cooking breakfast. We had some combination of trout, eggs and cheese. Afterwards with all of my personal stuff packed I worked on packing the kitchen bin. When I had finished packing Trevor and Lindsy still had to pack their personal belongings to take care of, instead of sitting in the cold I opted to go for a run and have them pick me up when they finished. I let them know that if I made it the two or three miles to the Dalton Highway from Galbraith Lake camp I would head south. I also let them know that instead of running on the main road, I would likely run on the service road that runs next to the pipeline, my goal was to avoid semi trucks going sixty miles per hour down a dirt road while I was on foot. I wore a neon yellow tank top with some baby blue under armor and skipped on water as I didn’t expect to run more than a couple miles.

I was off. I passed the little dirt runway airport at Galbraith and looked back. No car in sight. I found some sunglasses on the road and made it to the Dalton Highway, about two or three miles off miles from where we had camped. I still didn’t see the pick up, so I ran south on the pipeline service road. The service road had mile markers at every intersection with the Dalton Highway so I could get a general sense of my milage.

I ran to the next intersection between the service road and the highway. I had run three more miles, for a total of five or six miles. I kept looking back to see if the truck was coming. There was no sign of them, yet. I was glad to be on the pipeline service road, because numerous semis and pick up trucks drove by on the Dalton Highway and it was nice to avoid the gravel spray. 

After about another two miles I saw our truck. I got to a high point on the pipeline service road and waved both arms and jumped up and down with my bright neon yellow shirt. As they were parallel to me I started to run the 50-yards from the service road to the main highway and they drove right by. At first I was kind of annoyed. They could have stopped. I got to the road and was at the top of a gentle rise. There was a pull off at the bottom with a short little side road. I bet they pulled in there just to pull a little prank on me. I ran down the hill to the pull out. No truck. I looked up the road and the truck was not in sight. At the bottom of the hill the road crossed a bridge, I was forced to stay on the road now. As semis and trucks passed I had to go far down the shoulder to avoid gravel and rocks being flung into my face at high speeds.

Surely they had to realize they had passed me. I ran three more miles, now totaling ten or eleven miles. I passed Pump Station #4. Along the entire pipeline there are pump stations that pump the oil down the pipeline. At this point I stopped running. I didn’t have water and my previously strained hamstring did not feel good.

The entire time I was running I was running calculations in my head. Let’s say I was running nine minutes/mile. Let’s say they were driving at forty miles/hour. In the time that I would run one mile they could drive six miles. That mean’s that by the time that I got to the pump station, three miles after they passed me, they would be an additional eighteen miles down the road. Were they checking their mileage? Were they going to turn around? When would they turn around?

I started walking because I had to conserve energy. I didn’t have any water. I didn’t have food. Were there any bears? When do I flag down another car? Had they really not seen me? At what point are they going to turn around? Do I hitchhike? What do I do if I see a bear? Do I flag down a semi?

As all these questions ran through my head I realized that I had run ten miles and they were an additional eighteen miles down the road. My mood changed, I went from trying to figure things out to being angry. I became very angry. They had driven twenty-eight miles from our campsite without stopping. Without thinking to themselves, did we pass him? Can he run 28-miles in two hours?  Can anyone in the world run 28-miles in two hours!? My fury grew as I walked. Every step I took meant that they were racing forty miles per hour further and further.

Then I saw the car. They had finally turned around. They didn’t stop next to me, they passed me by twenty yards and I walked back to the car. Lindsy jumped out of the car and said, ‘Here, here you can have the front.’ I was incapable of speaking. I got in the back seat and simply asked for an orange juice that was in the front. They apologized for not seeing me and said that they turned around when they realized that I couldn’t have run that far. The only words that I could muster were ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ I then sat silently in the car for the entire day.

You turned around when you realized I couldn’t have run that far?! You turned around after more than twenty miles. It was outlandish in my head. What had they been doing at camp? All they had to do was load their personal belongings and take down the tent. Had they made another round of breakfast? Sat down for coffee and made a fire?

It was a terrifying moment. No food, no water, in the Arctic on a highway where I could encounter bears, moose and muskoxen.