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AMDS Outdoor Adventures - 11/9/99
by Ken Baehr

Bruce Smith at Hatcher Pass
Bruce Smith at Hatcher Pass

I had a surprise phone call from an old friend last Friday evening. It was a blast from the past. Bruce Smith had often been my partner when I worked for Shopsmith Inc. selling woodworking equipment at home shows, state fairs, and woodworking shows around the country. He called to let me know he was going to be working a show in Fairbanks, to be followed by one in Anchorage. The good news was that he had Monday and Tuesday off between the two shows. He asked if we could get together for dinner or something. I said, without a moment's hesitation I might add, "Lets go snow machining." His reply, "I'm in." was all it took. We were on our way to Hatcher's Pass.

I called around to my favorite riding spots only to learn that the snow conditions were pretty marginal. Hatcher was the only place we could get to ride and be back in time to meet other commitments. We picked up my machines and headed to the Last Chance Coffee Shop to unload. At first things looked promising. Being a Tuesday, there was absolutely no one in the parking lot. The snow looked good, and the adrenaline started to flow just a little through my veins. We got suited up and headed up the road.

Boy, what a difference a week can make. Apparently lots of people had also come to the same conclusion on Saturday and Sunday. Hatcher was the only place to ride. As a result, the six-inch moguls of a week ago had become two footers. Every place that could be ridden had been ridden. It was one bumpy ride. We rode on for about thirty minutes until I had had enough and pulled over to the side of the trail for a break. I walked over to Bruce who was just taking off his helmet. I wanted to apologize for the terrible riding conditions. That's when I got a lesson in perspective.

Hatcher Pass, Alaska
As he removed his helmet he hollered out, "this is great!" "Look how beautiful everything is." You see Bruce comes from Tulsa Oklahoma where three inches of snow is a veritable blizzard. To be able to ride at all was just plain wonderful. All of a sudden, I quit looking at the moguls and began to see around me. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the wind was calm, the temperatures were mild, and the view was spectacular. It was a good day after all.

About that time we got an unexpected bonus. The first of some nine or ten dogs teams rounded the corner in training for the winter racing season. During the week nobody is on the mountain, and the dog mushers have it to themselves. The run up the road to the pass is great training for the dogs and the mushers. I recognized Dee Dee Jonrowe of Iditarod fame and waved. She waved back. About this time I look over at Bruce. The expression on his face reminded me of a ten-year-old boy at Christmas. He was having a ball. We headed on up the pass being careful to give the dog teams plenty of room. They appreciated the gesture and rewarded us with big smiles and hearty waves. It turned out to be a great day despite the rough trail.

Willow Creek
Willow Creek at Hatcher Pass

After reaching the top of the pass, and returning to the trailer, I found myself thanking Bruce for a great ride. His attitude made me able to look past the moguls to the pleasure of just being "out there." It was a good day.

~ Ken Baehr

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