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When I walked this same path 20 years ago, I averaged six miles each day. After a few weeks in 2017 of hiking the path of the trans-Alaska pipeline, it seems easy to do 10 miles a day. Back then, sometimes my backpack weighed 60 pounds. I’m trying to keep it half that weight now. I started from Valdez with a load of 32 pounds. Most of the reduction is due to clever people who have engineered lighter gear because consumers wanted it, and because of breakthroughs in materials available to designers.

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Scientists developing a project to study the Earth’s crust in China are looking toward EarthScope, a similar project in the U.S., as a model for multidisciplinary science and open data sharing. Representatives from the SinoProbe project visited UAF’s Geophysical Institute this week after the 2017 EarthScope National Meeting in Anchorage.

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We have launched on the pipeline hike version 2.0, 20 years after the first time. I’m now sitting on the muscled root of a Sitka spruce by the pleasant rush of a creek. A bald eagle shrieks from the top of a tree nearby while a diesel ship engine thrums from the Valdez Marine Terminal a few miles away.

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Twenty years ago, I was 34 when I walked away from a chain-link fence near Port Valdez and headed east. Those were the first steps on a summer-long trip across Alaska. In a few days, I will begin to retrace those steps.

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In the early going of my second hike across Alaska along the route of the trans-Alaska pipeline, I chose to walk the highway rather than the pipe’s route to get up Thompson Pass north of Valdez. The road added six miles to our day. But I tried the pipe route up the pass 20 years ago and it was like trying to climb a 90-meter ski jump.

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