The sun was shining, the mosquitoes were biting, and my backpack was full of snacks. At least that was how the 8.2 mile hike to Alaska’s Harding Ice Field began. The trail head did little to beckon to me; imagine a rain forest clad with bears, real ones, the kind that require bear spray and a prayer to defeat, accompanied by rocks that climb 1,000 feet in elevation over each and every mile. If it were up to me, I would have turned around before I even began.
But instead, I hiked forward.
The sole reason I take to adventures like this is because my wife makes me do it. And the solitary reason she survives is because I come prepared with enough water and snacks to endure. We are a great team that way.
Just over a year ago, at her urging, we hiked into and out of the Grand Canyon in one very long 13-hour day. Everyone told us it shouldn’t be done, including our families and the Park Rangers that don cool khaki and stand at the information booth ready to share their wealth of knowledge. But we did it anyway, and survived, thanks to our commitment to physical fitness and the six sandwiches we enjoyed during the grueling and beautiful trek.
The Grand Canyon hike was longer, sure. A total of 17 miles. So in my head I knew eight would be doable. The only caveat was the elevation change. Over 1,000 feet per mile meant the entirety of the hike would be super steep, taking us from sweltering heat to snow. It was treacherous, requiring both hands and feet, hiking poles and core strength, balance and plenty of snacks.
But above all, it required me to believe in myself. And doing so allowed me to delight in a solitude very few people in the world will ever have the good fortune of experiencing.
At the crest of the mountain, I sat in the cold, mosquitoes and bears a thing of the past, looking out onto pure white fields of ice nestled into the comfort of the mountains that surrounded it. There has never been a quieter moment.
And just like after traversing the switchbacks of the Grand Canyon, I could hear the same resounding voice while sitting in the silence of the mountaintop.
It said, simply, climb mountains. Literally and figuratively. It isn’t always easy. In fact, it is sometimes downright near impossible. But do it anyway. Challenge yourself. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. The view is worth it. The journey is worth it. The solitude and wisdom and accomplishment are always worth every arduous step.
- Discovering The Grand Canyon (angelaabdala.wordpress.com)
- The Grand Canyon at last! (cookieandpeaches.com)
- How hiking saved one woman’s life (grindtv.com)