Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1988 Roman Dial Article

Here's a newspaper article from August of 1988 by Craig Medred about Roman Dial.  Craig is a Classic veteran himself and his weekly articles about the outdoors were always amusing.  This one is no exception.  He is also an author.  Here's a link to his book on Amazon.  Graveyard of Dreams  I had to cut this article down quite a bit to make sure I was within fair use copyright limitations but what I've posted will give you the gist of what it says.  If you want to read the whole thing you can read it by accessing Daily News Archives through your library.  Here's a blog post I wrote a little while ago that tells you how to do it.  Daily News Archive Access

Alaska Wilderness Has a Million Ways to Teach Humility 
Craig Medred, August 1988
Roman Dial is a trim and slouchy sort of guy who doesn't look like any of the things he is. A rich intellect hides behind the too friendly face of the proverbial boy next door. His jeans and opencollared shirt hide the lean, muscular frame of a wild animal.  He sprawls into chairs in a very relaxed, very open, very undignified way that is certain to disarm anyone who might, by chance, recognize him as an almost mythical creature of the Alaska backcountry.

Nothing about his dress, behavior or movement offer a clue to this unique fellow with the strange name.
There is certainly nothing that identifies Dial as the guy who twice won the 155mile, Hope to Homer footrace through the wilderness.

And there is even less to mark Dial as a scientist who has been given a grant to pursue a doctorate in biology at Stanford this fall.  Here is a man who blends the worlds of physical and intellectual fitness without being affected by either. Dial feels no need to impress anyone with his conditioning or his intelligence.
In a world that hinges on packaging, it is refreshing to meet someone so distinctly unpackaged. This is an Alaska gold nugget in a plain, brown wrapper.

Dial doesn't prance around in muscle shirts or tights to show off his body or babble on about his times in this sport or that. His conversation doesn't slide into scientific technobull in an attempt to illustrate his education.

Dial doesn't seem to care that he knows things you don't or can do things you can't.  Why he is this way, I don't know, but I'd like to think the mountains and the wilderness had something to do with it.

Alaska's wild country has a million ways to teach humility. It is particularly good at beating up braggarts, loudmouths and hotdogs. Sometimes it spits out decent people when it's done. Other times it just sends them packing.

Take a good man, send him into this wilderness , and he only comes out better. There's something educational in being forced to recognize how stupidity, accident or even fate can kill you in the blink of an eye. It alters your perspective. It takes your perfectly normal, highfalutin, overinflated self-opinion and makes a joke of it.

We talked last week, me getting ready to go sheep hunting and he preparing for this year's running of the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, a 160mile footrace through the WrangellSt. Elias National Park and Preserve from Nabesna to McCarthy.  What we talked about in some detail was plain, old brush.

Dial swore he'd found a route through the mountains and canyons between Nabesna and McCarthy that only required busting through 100 yards of brush. I shared some secrets about a bear trail through one of the brushy sections of country between the Russian River Trail and the Skilak River valley on the Kenai Peninsula. 

If you've ever spent days in the wilderness fighting your way through alders, willows and devil's club on the road to exhaustion and madness, you will know what we were talking about.  For there in the tangles, when the going just goes to hell, it becomes obvious that there's nothing particularly important about humans. We're not much different than all the other animals grunting and sweating to stay alive as long as possible. And the best thing we can do for ourselves is to never forget it.


  1. Alder, willow and devil's club - are those good or bad trees?

    1. as shrubs they make for bad trees and really horrible brush