Elderly friends recreate 1960 snowmachine trek in Alaska

Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two lifelong friends who invented the modern snowmobile are launching a 10-man snowmachine expedition from Bethel to Fairbanks today, 40 years after a smaller group made the 1,200-mile trek on the first motorized sleds.

Edgar Hetteen, 79, and David Johnson, 77, are commemorating Hetteen's 1960 journey, which was an effort to bring attention to the new invention that changed winter travel in harsh northern conditions.

The ''Breaking Trail 2000'' team also is raising funds for research of ALS, a degenerative disease commonly knowed as Lou Gehrig's disease. Polaris Industries Inc., the company Hetteen started, will match pledges from the company's employees and dealers. Two Polaris employees have been diagnosed with ALS, including Wes Blakeslee, an engineer who helped design the snowmachines the group is riding in Alaska.

The team members were in Anchorage Tuesday before they flew to Bethel, where they will begin the trip this morning. The journey is expected to take eight days, compared to the original trip, which was completed in 21 days.

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