It was a traditionally misty day in Southeast as two long-time friends hiked up the maintenance road to the top of Eaglecrest Ski Area.
Patrick Leamer and Lyle Hadsel, both 75, were out for one of their regular outings in Alaska’s outdoors.
“Lyle and I have done a lot of backpacking, hunting and fishing, and we’ve run some marathons,” Leamer said. “We’ve been doing these things together for about 27 years.”
On this day, their hike was about more than just enjoying the fresh air. Leamer is preparing to hike to the summit of Mount Rainier in early September and Hadsel has taken on the task of being his partner, his training buddy, Leamer said.
It’s a hike Leamer is excited to finally complete. After many years spent hiking on and around the mountain, the avid outdoorsman said he’s never climbed to the summit. The idea, he said, came about when another of his outdoor buddies, John Post, from Minnesota, phoned.
“He called me up about Christmas time and said ‘We’ve hiked around Mount Rainier and on the mountain — and this summer we’re going to the top.’”
“So, before I thought about I said ‘Yeah, sure,’” Leamer said. “Lyle thinks I’m out of my mind!”
Over more than two decades, the two have had plenty of adventures together.
Leamer remembers one hunting trip near Bartle Cove where a charging mother bear sent them running.
“We went in there and we were hiking up the side of the ridge and we were apparently pushing a sow and her cub,” Leamer said. “I guess she just got tired of being pushed and put the cub up a tree and was waiting for us.”
Leamer remembers he had his 12-gauge shotgun. Hadsel had the rifle on his shoulder.
“Lyle had fallen down,” Leamer said. “She was charging. I got a shot off, didn’t hit her, but luckily it scared her off.”
At that point, the sow retreated to the base of the tree and coaxed down her cub.
“She and the cub went one way and Lyle and I went the other,” Leamer said.
Many outings were spent fishing near Excursion Inlet, where Hadsel had a hand troller permit.
“There were several times we were in to the cohos,” Leamer said, “and with four poles in the water, we had fish on all of them.”
And then there were the times they fished along the shores of Admiralty Island and watched humpback whales bubble-net feeding over and over and over.
“We must’ve seen them six or seven times and that was pretty cool to see,” he said.
But the adventures of these two friends extend out of the wilderness. Together they have completed multiple marathons, including those in San Diego, Calif., Portland, Ore., Vancouver, B.C., and in Juneau.
“Not the course now,” Leamer said of running the local marathon. “They had some crazy courses before.”
Since 1972, Leamer has made his home in Juneau where he raised six children with his wife, Edna. Of the six, four still live in Juneau.
On the topic of the Mount Rainier summit hike, he said he’s most looking forward to the top, but admits it won’t be the same with out his good friend.
“I wish he was going with me. We’re good buddies,” Leamer said. “We’ve done a lot together.”
On Sept. 5, Leamer and Post will begin their three-day guided hike.
By then, Leamer said, Hadsel will be back in Arizona where he now lives full time. He was spending time in Juneau this summer only temporarily.
Despite the distance, Leamer said the two will certainly have more adventures in the future.
“When you have a good friendship you don’t break it,” he said.
• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at email@example.com.