It’s funny how quickly things can change over the course of only ten days. Ten days ago I posted a list of things that I wanted to accomplish in my thirties. On that list was to return to Alaska for the first time since the fifth grade. My family lived in Alaska for one year when I was in the fifth grade and I really loved living there. I remember the address of the house we lived in: 4366 Manor Avenue, Juneau, AK 99801. I even remember the phone number we had: (907) 789-1235. (This phone number is now assigned to the Association for the Education of Young Children – Southeast Alaska, apparently.) I have a lot of fond memories of my time in Alaska: Bullwinkle’s Pizza, getting picked up from school by a limo on my birthday, family outings to Fred Meyer, wandering in the woods, visits to Mendenhall Glacier, accidentally bringing down the computer system of a global mining company, my first experience of a BBS, and having a huge crush on my fifth grade teacher.
A few weeks ago my friend Mike Liliedahl asked if I wanted to hike the Chilkoot Trail with him from Alaska into Canada over the summer and I was really looking forward to it. We were going to start in Juneau with his brother’s wedding and then head up to Skagway to begin the journey. By the time I posted my list, though, it sounded as if that wasn’t going to be able to happen, after all. But, a few days later I got word that Chilkoot was back on, and now here I am only 10 days into my 30s and I’ve already booked the plane ticket to Juneau, we’ve purchased the passes, and we’re scheduled to summit the Chilkoot Pass on July 26, 2012. Now that the trip has gone from the conceptual stage to the “this is actually going to happen” stage, I find myself both excited and a little nervous. I love hiking – I grew up hiking in the Rockies and I’ve done plenty of hiking in California, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and elsewhere. That said, though, this will be my longest hike – 33 miles – and the first time that I’m hiking with camping gear.
Add to that this slightly daunting elevation profile and you’ve got the makings of a truly challenging journey. On the first day we’ll be hiking to Sheep Camp. We’ll overnight there and then undertake the bulk of the vertical climb on Day 2 as we cross the border into Canada and end up at Happy Camp. On that Day we’ll climb over 2,000 vertical feet into a high alpine ecosystem. Despite the long days, I’ve heard that even experienced hikers have been known not to make Happy Camp. Day 3 will take us to Bare Loon and Day 4 should be a breeze, landing us in Bennett, BC.
It looks like I’ve got some training to do! Thankfully, I’m currently training for a 10K trail run in Napa that will include 700 feet of vertical climb in the first 2-miles, so I’ve already started a portion of the training for an ascent. The elevation, itself, should also be manageable. After all, I grew up in the high desert, so 3,500 feet should pose no problem. So, it seems that I’m already starting the check things off my list. So far, the 30s are treating me pretty well.