A Taste for Exploration

Bright oranges and pinks rise with the sun. Simultaneously, the van navigates the ever twisting perimeter of asphalt that skirts the Chugach range. We, the other guide and myself, are moving towards our morning gathering in Anchorage. The smell of morning coffee fills the van as we both go over, for the third time, our gear checklist and itinerary.

The Pick Up

Stopping in Anchorage in front of a hotel, we meet our guests at the door of the lobby. They’re ready to go with names and hellos being exchanged as their bags are shuffled into the van. It is time to move and groove towards the trailhead. The first steps of adventure are in sight. But not before a stop at our favorite bakery on the way out of town.

We wind through fire country, where the wild fires burn naturally each season and pull off onto a dirt road. We unload packs quickly. The eagerness to move after the van ride is an extra helping hand. We stock our bags with water, snacks, and let everyone answer their calls to nature. With packs hoisted we follow the dirt pathway that disappears into a coniferous forest. The conversation is loud and laced with laughter as we bound, everyone taking their turn to break the ice. And hopefully deter any bears that around.

Packs On

Even as seasoned guides, each hike still requires us to adjust our shoulder straps and hip belts. We climb into a hanging valley, navigating the terrain by the

Alaska wild flora

Reindeer Lichen is a food source for wild roaming caribou, claiming it’s namesake

rushing river to our right. Our gaze follows the ridge line. It seems as if we are all resting into a new sensation of calmness. Our eyes meet with the farthest peaks, a gradient of jagged, gnarled rock, cascading into seemingly soft brush and river willow. The contrast in life is striking here.

Alaska has made the usual reservation for us, finding that there is no one out here besides our group. These are the first steps of adventure to a week long guided experience. We walk past yellow hillsides blanketed with summer blooms into a landscape that looks as if it escaped from the ocean bottom. The landscape, dried by the sun, features hundreds of yards of coral-esque reindeer lichen.

Snacking and Sauntering

As we saunter along we explore nearby alpine lakes, growing closer and closer to the peaks that once seemed so far away. Finally, we put packs down for a much needed snack break. As soon as our conversational chatter subsided we could hear rocks tumble off slopes far away. And once in awhile we could even catch the chirp of a marmot.

Stepping into Adventure

Glacial melt and spring water flow through the basin of this rocky bowl

Starting on again, it isn’t long before our muscles are burning once again. With heavy breathing we are welcomed to a large alpine lake absorbing the afternoon sun. The lake is still enough to perfectly capture the surrounding peaks and our reflections. Taking turns to consider a dip, we see there are tiny aquatic bugs and slugs moving through the bone chilling water. We dip our sore feet into the water, reenergizing with the brisk water.

Our floating shoulders are soon brought back down to earth as we heave our packs back onto their rightful places. Soon we find ourselves sitting at the base of a bowl. Peaks rising all around us.

Tones of the Terrain

All of a sudden, a clap of thunder from the mountain side gives way to a massive rock slide in the distance. We sit and listen in awe as the sound reverberates around us. Minutes later, the rocks seem to shift again. A river of boulders cascades into a scree field below. It is apparent now that these mountain sides are for admiration and not light hearted travel.

The group takes to a lake that sits near our future base camp. With many exhausted sighs, we rest the glacial and spring fed water nearby. We listen for the rumble of rock while scanning the mountain side to try to spot the loose gravel pour into the basin from afar. The group finding themselves enraptured, watching the reality show of a living, moving Earth. And this is just the first day.