The First Steps of Adventure

Bright oranges and pinks rise with the sun. The van navigates the ever twisting perimeter of asphalt that lays at the feet of the Chugach range. It is the morning gathering in Anchorage. We collect ourselves, double checking bags so as to catch any last minute gear we may have missed.

With bags stacked it is an easy game of baggage Tetris in the fifteen passenger van. Afterwards, we grab a quick cup of joe at one of our favorite local coffee spots. Everyone starts to perk up due to the sunrise and addition of freshly made pastries to our breakfast ballots. It is time to move and groove towards the trailhead. The first steps of adventure are in sight.

We wind through fire country, where the wild fires burn naturally each season to pull off onto a dirt road. Unloading packs is quick, probably due to eagerness to move after the van ride. We stock our bags with water and answer any residual calls to nature. The keys are put into a safe spot to ensure we can depart upon return to the van. We follow the dirt pathway that disappears into the coniferous forest. The conversation is loud and laced with laughter as we bound.

Each hike we still have to adjust our shoulder straps and hip belts. This gives proof to the subtle changes in our bodies between trips. We’re climbing into the valley now, following the rushing river as our guide. Our gaze follows the ridge line. We take in the grand sensation of deep calm. Our eyes meet with the farthest peaks, a gradient of jagged, gnarled rock, cascading into seemingly soft brush and river willow.

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. We walk past floral yellow hillsides into a landscape that looks as if it escaped from the ocean bottom. The landscape, dried by the sun, featuring hundreds of yards of coral-esque reindeer lichen. The crew steps between hillsides.

We find alpine lakes, growing closer and closer to the peaks that once seemed so far away. Stopping for a much needed break of food. Packs drop to while some of the group answers the call of curiosity to what lies just beyond the steep mountain to our right.

Burning muscles and heavy breathing welcome us 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 in the lake, we see there are tiny aquatic bugs and slugs moving through the bone chilling water.  These are easily missed by those of quick mind and short attention spans. Dipping our sore feet into the water, we energize with the brisk water.

Our floating shoulders are soon brought back down to earth as we heave our packs back onto their rightful places. We are now almost at the end of the line. The prodigious peaks form themselves into a bowl, requiring the gift of flight if we were to seek the other side.

All of the sudden, a clap of thunder from the mountain side gives way to a massive rocks slide in the distance. We sit and listen in awe as the sound reverberates through the base of the bowl, traveling through us, tunneling upwards towards the sky. Minutes later the earth rumbles again. A river of boulders cascade into scree fields below. It is apparent now that these mountain sides are for admiration and not travel.

The group takes to a lake that sits at the base of camp. Finding our last steps of adventure to the first day, finally. We relinquish our exhausted bodies to the glacial and spring fed water. We listen for the rumble of rock while scanning the mountain side to spot the loose rock downpour. The group finding themselves enraptured, watching the reality show of a living, moving Earth.