Trail to the past: Recreating a 1968 hike

Last year, a former Eielson airman asked for help identifying the location of an Interior hill he climbed in 1968.

Fairbanks history buffs and hiking enthusiasts rushed to help him. First, they identified the location of his hike from his old photographs.Then, last month, they took him hiking there when he flew in from Kentucky to re-create the hike.

Bob Pettit’s main photograph from the 1968 hike is of fellow airman Werner “Bruce” Jasinski. Pettit has lost touch with Jasinski and doesn’t remember exactly how he spelled his name. In the photo, Jasinski is a muscular 18-year-old in jeans and a T-shirt, standing with his arms crossed on a rock outcropping near the Elliott Highway. A hill climbing to an alpine ridgeline is visible behind him.

Pettit is now 70 and lives in northern Kentucky. He had hoped to figure out where he had hiked that day based on the shape of the rocks on the ridgeline. He wanted to re-create the hike because it was a highlight of his time in Alaska.

“What made the hike so memorable is that you’re an 18-year-old boy from Kentucky and you’re out it the wilds of Alaska where there’s wildlife, and that’s unimaginable,” he said.

It turns out Pettit’s destination was Wickersham Dome, a well-known landmark today frequented by hundreds of hikers each year. It’s now on a developed trail in the White Mountains National Recreation Area, but that trail hadn’t been built yet in 1968. Pettit and Jasinski climbed the hill from a different location than most hikers do today.

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