FAIRBANKS — A Birch Creek man who decided to walk from his village to Fort Yukon in 35-degree-below-zero weather was found by a search party just four miles shy of his goal.
Lawrence James, 52, walked roughly 46 miles in about 15 hours, according to Fort Yukon Police Officer Michael Ivie. James’ family had alerted Alaska State Troopers and village law enforcement after James left Birch Creek about 7 p.m. Monday.
“Our issue is that it was -30 or below, and he was by himself, and he was only carrying a little .22 rifle,” Ivie said. “There were all sorts of possibilities that might have happened. He could have been trampled by a moose or (attacked by) wolves.”
Ivie said a .22 rifle would not be very effective against a moose or predator but said James “could have shot a couple of ptarmigans to eat” if he had to.
Birch Creek is an Interior village about 26 miles southwest of Fort Yukon as the crow flies. That would require traveling over numerous lakes, rivers and sloughs, however, so James took a more circuitous route of approximately 50 to 60 miles.
James was dressed for the cold in heavy winter gear and also had a bottle of water with him. He told Ivie he had walked non-stop and didn’t get cold the entire trip.
“When I asked him why he did it, he said that a cousin of his did it a few years back and he thought he’d try to see if he could do it,” Ivie said. “I told him, ‘more power to you, buddy,’ but that’s not something I think I’d want to try.”
James said he felt fine during the entire time but his legs were hurting by the time the search party picked him up, according to Ivie.
“That’s understandable, he’d just walked 50 miles,” Ivie said. “This gentleman, it’s actually pretty impressive that he walked that far, being that he’s 52 years old.”
James’ family told the search party that one of the reasons they called for a search was because James wasn’t completely sober when he decided to go on his overnight excursion.
“He had been drinking. Not a whole lot, he wasn’t drunk. He had a couple of drinks,” Ivie said. “He said if he had to do it all over again, he would have probably picked a different time. He said his last drink kind of gave him that urge, that oomph.”
Contact Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.