Oddarne Skaldebo wants one thing understood: He was not lost.
The Norwegian hiker said he just underestimated how hard it would be to walk alone across 200 miles of central Alaska, over tundra and through lowland brush.Lucky for him he walked into the village of Koyukuk on Saturday, blistered, 40 pounds lighter and nearly a month overdue - a search had been called off a day earlier and he was exhausted.
"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.
The 51-year-old geologist was in good condition at a Fairbanks hostel. He planned to rest for about a week before returning home.
He left Wrench Lake on Aug. 18, intending to walk to Koyukuk by Sept. 22 and return to Norway three days later. Koyukuk is only 75 air miles away from Wrench Lake, but boggy tundra and thick brush slowed him down.
Skaldebo was due at work in Norway on Sept. 25, and his employer called authorities when he failed to show up. The search was launched Oct. 9.
"I was lagging behind every day," he said.
Two weeks into the trip, his feet began to bleed from large blisters. And 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, allowing his feet to heal.
The day he left the cabin, he stepped through river ice twice, but he pushed on to Koyukuk, finishing what was ultimately a 300-mile trek.