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Hiker completes trek _ three weeks late

October 20, 1997

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ A Norwegian hiker, more than three weeks overdue from a solo trek through interior Alaska, walked into the village of Koyukuk _ exhausted, blistered and 40 pounds lighter.

Oddarne Skaldebo, a 51-year-old geologist, was in good condition after arriving in the village Saturday, a day after authorities called off a nine-day air and river search for him.

``Alaska is the hardest trip I’ve ever done and the most interesting experience I’ve done in the wilderness,″ said Skaldebo, who has traveled alone through wild country on five continents.

He spent two months walking in the isolated areas of the Alaska bush country after setting out Aug. 18 on a solo, 200-mile trek from Wrench Lake to Koyukuk, 300 miles west of Fairbanks.

He was due at work in Norway on Sept. 25 and his employer called authorities when he failed to show up.

Skaldebo said he was not lost. He just underestimated the difficulty of walking through tundra and lowland brush.

``I was lagging behind every day,″ he said. Two weeks into the trip, his feet began to bleed from large blisters.

At the end of September, Skaldebo ran out of food. He ate berries and fish before finding a cabin with food. He stayed there for a week, but lost 40 pounds over the course of the hike.

``I found not much food, but some pancake powder and some egg power and potatoes and beans and this saved my life, absolutely,″ he said.

He allowed his feet to heal but the day he left the cabin, he punched a foot through ice on the Koyukuk River. Three miles from Koyukuk, he again went through the ice, this time up to his waist.

``He said he used every last bit of his strength to make Koyukuk because he realized that if he made camp he might die,″ Trooper John Brown said.

On Saturday, the first person to see Skaldebo was 32-year-old trapper Ernie Esmailka, who saw the leather-clad hiker sitting in his yard. He took him inside for a change of clothes and a hot meal.

Despite his difficulties, Skaldebo said he plans to return to Alaska.

``I want to come back and do another walk and be much better prepared and bring some device to get in touch with people,″ he said.

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