NOLS Alaska Mountaineering – Day 26
Well today was hard, but enjoyable. Even though we only hiked for 7 hours, we went 10 miles, crossed a river, and hiked over two passes. The scenery was incredible, but my feet are KILLING me!
So we got up at 9 and Emil made our group hash browns with cheese and hot sauce for breakfast. It was really good, and quite filling. Next we packed up camp, and were on our way by 11am.
We hiked down into a wide valley towards our first pass. It took us about 2 hours to get there, and along the way we crossed several streams and large rock fields. It was tough, but surprisingly I wasn’t getting too tired. I was hydrated though, and I’m in really good shape now, so I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised. Also it helps to have a group that takes a break every hour religiously to re-hydrate and eat snacks.
Anywho our first pass was so tall that the North side we were crossing was still snow covered. Since the re-ration plane took our snow gear, our only option was to kick in steps up the steep slope, and hope an avalanche didn’t decide to take us all out. So up we went. The view was amazing, and on our way we ran into four caribou (a mom, two adults and a teeny baby) who were curious about us at first, and then ended up running off into the distance. I was amazed at how easily they moved over such slippery, steep, snow covered slopes, and after making several jokes about catching two each (one for riding and one for our packs), we moved on.
The valley on the other side of the pass was narrow and beautiful, and from our high up vantage point we could see our next pass about four miles away. So down we zigzagged into the green valley, and along the way I ran into my favorite backcountry treat: bluebells! I chowed down.
Walking along the river in the valley wasn’t too difficult, but Emil, who gets into his own little world while he’s hiking, got really far ahead of the group and nearly missed the turn to our second pass. He couldn’t hear us yelling at him, but finally someone whistled and he snapped out of it before he got too far.
We decided to take a rest at the bottom of our second pass before crossing, and were all really tired but trying to stay positive. The second pass was more gradual of a climb than the first at the bottom, but steeper at the top making it still very hard to get over. The good news was after that, we only had another 1.5 miles of hiking left until we’d reach our destination – a lake in the mountains where we’ll be staying both tonight and tomorrow night.
We ended up following several caribou paths (since I guess we’re following their big migration?), but after an hour we still hadn’t found the lake. A little worried, we all trusted Evan’s judgement that it had to be right over the next hill, but after that hill we still hadn’t found it. With my feet killing me it was all I could do not to get upset, and we decided to give him one more chance before we all sat down with the map and GPS to figure out where we went wrong. However, over the next hill, there sat the clear, beautiful lake we had been looking for. A few of the guys were so happy (and hot from the hike) that they dropped their packs, stripped down to their boxers, and jumped in! I was worried about my feet, but when I took off my boots and socks, it turns out they were just aching. Except for a blister the size of my big toe on my right arch, but that has been developing for a few days. I can wrap that up on Thursday before we move, and it has all day tomorrow to heal.
While Emil and I set up the tent, Eric worked on dinner and made us mac and cheese with tuna in it. It was so good after a long day, and we were so tired. Also the mosquitoes are quite annoying, so my bug spray has been in use and I’ve been sporting a mosquito head net. After cleaning up dinner, I was exhausted and returned to the tent. Even though it’s only 9pm I’m planning on going to sleep soon.
I’m so proud of myself for making it through today though. It was the hardest day of our student travel. After tomorrow’s break, we have a six mile downhill hike to our next camping spot in a forest, and then from there it’s only a mile hike on Friday to our meeting spot where all of the groups and instructors are supposed to meet by 4pm. Then we’ll camp there for a night, and hike two miles on Saturday where the NOLS bus will pick us up at 2pm.
Although we all love it out here in the wilderness, I can tell we’re all ready to be back in civilization too. We keep talking about the food we’re getting at the hub, and how excited we are that NOLS brings us lunch and dinner on the bus. Can you tell they’ve turned down the rations? 😉
I am so excited to be home again and find out what has happened over the last month. It’s pretty cool to realize I’m near the end of my trek through Alaska, and that in one week I’ll be home!
Ok time for bed. We plan on sleeping in really really late tomorrow, and then making pancakes! Yay!