Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Originals

These four guys are the original four finishers of the ten starters in the very first Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, the 1982 running of Hope to Homer. We had a reunion at our house last week.

On the left is Dick Griffith (fourth in 1982). I wrote a chapter about him in Packrafting!, but he really deserves an entire book -- which by the way he has written. Two stories of his are the best packrafting words ever written: one on his 1952 descent of the Barrancas del Cobre and another his Sherpa Raft run of the Grand Canyon in the early 90s. He's 82 now, and as he says, "Was old when this thing [the Classic] started.". Completed his last Classic solo in 2004 when his partner fell in the Talkeetna River Canyon and dislocated his shoulder. They used their sat phone to call for help and Dick's partner flew out. Dick makes the rest of us look wimpy at fifty. He's Republican.

Next to Dick is George Ripley (third in 1982), who now lives in DC, but whose idea the Classic was. He started it then handed it off to me in 1984. He was a Homer wilderness guide who sold multi-sport trips in the 1980s, a decade before they were done elsewhere. A few years ago he met a gal on-line and then rendezvoused with her in Anchorage, where he took her from McCarty Fjord, up onto the Harding Icefield, across it and down the Sheep Creek-Fox River to Kachemak Bay in packrafts. Pretty gutsy trip, really. He just sold off his Homer land for a pretty penny and will be riding his bike around the perimeter of the USA, promoting his green, grass roots fringe concept for the American Flag at Americans for Social Justice. Clearly he's a liberal Democrat.

Dave Manzer (second in 1982) went on to set the record for Hope to Homer that was never broken in a total of six years on that course. He was a fierce competitor in the 1980s and would have set the Nabesna to McCarthy record, too, in 1989, but he flipped his Sherpa Packraft in the Chitistone and nearly drowned. He swore off the Classic then. He's an Independent.

Yours truly's on the right. His Classic itch resurfaces every few years. He's happy Obama's in office but sad that Sarah Palin's still out there spewing misinformation and hate.


  1. I met Dick on the trail between Golovin and Elim just in 2006. We talked for over an hour, I couldn't believe he was skiing alone out there at 78-- while he was cursing the hill he was complaining about the trail being too easy!! I'm sure he probably doesn't remember it much but I do, that man is an inspiration...


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