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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Thirteen Years

Snowshoes were the gift this last Christmas. With the exception of seven-year-old Jack, who got a pair from Uncle Doug a year ago, my mom stocked the rest of us with snowshoes and poles. Even 22-month-old Evan has a pair now.

Though it is actually this next Monday, Bruce and I celebrated our thirteenth wedding anniversary today. For the first time since we moved to Anchorage in October 2003, I actually participated in a real Alaska wintertime activity – snowshoeing.

Late this morning, we drove the fifteen upward-winding minutes east of our home to the Glen Alps trailhead, which is part of Chugach State Park. Along the way, we spotted a moose munching along the side of the road.

At Glen Alps, the parking lot was full. It was a balmy 32 degrees, versus the 23 at our home. The down coat I brought was much too heavy for the conditions, so I just threw a wool sweater over my long-sleeve t-shirt and called it good.

We struggled into our other gear and hit the trail. The trail is suitable for walkers, snowshoers, skiers, skijorers, and horses. We saw no one on the way up the trail. I thought about bears and moose, but saw neither. I thought about the stories I’ve heard about people wandering just off a trail and literally stumbling upon a hibernating grizzly.

We were definitely in bear country, as various human-posted signs again and again pointed out. However, the great beauty of wintertime is that not only are tourists greatly diminished, but so is the bear menace. There are moose to worry about, but other than the one we saw from the safety of our car, the only animals to be seen were bounding, tongue-lolling, hugely-smiling puppy-dogs.

We hit a smaller trail that led off the main trail, down towards a creek, which was cheerfully gurgling down the mountainside. We crossed over the manmade bridge and wound up the opposing hillside, finally departing from the main trail and truly testing the meddle of our new snowshoes.

Anyone who has snowshoed before can attest to the elliptical motion of walking through deep snow. It was a great workout, but we didn’t long stray from the main trail. Being fairly out of shape, I tired easily. I was having a bit of remorse that I hadn’t brought some sort of windbreaking shell of a coat, as there was a breeze. Nevertheless, I never once got chilled. We looked westward down the valley towards the Anchorage bowl where isolated shafts of sunlight hit tiny bits and pieces of the lowlands, lighting them up in brilliant gold.

I looked to the east knowing that there is absolutely NOTHING for hundreds of miles. It was a sobering thought. When the Park Service posts signs warning of the perilous nature of recreation in the Chugach Mountains, they aren’t kidding. It wouldn’t take much to wander too far from the main trail getting oneself lost, and really, there is only one way out. The weather can change with the snap of your fingers. I watched as lavender and butter-colored clouds raced by overhead. A few rogue snow flakes flew past us. But for the most part, though overcast, the weather was clear and warm.

We were only out 90-minutes or so at the most. By the time we headed back up to the main trail, far more people were out and about. As we wound up the hillside from the creek, a woman who was walking her two dogs passed us by. She looked us over, and eyeing our snowshoes, very insensitively said, “You don’t need THOSE.” And she indicated the smooth, compacted trail on which she walked with mere duck-boots.

I muttered and puffed the rest of the way up the hillside. Here I had been feeling cocky and proud of myself – feeling like a true Alaskan outdoorswoman in my snazzy purple snowshoes. The rest of the trudge back to the car, we encountered a great deal more people on the trail. Only one of them wore snowshoes. There were a couple of Nordic skiers. The rest were in boots. Several had small children toddling along by themselves. One couple had a baby in a stroller. (Yes, the trail deep in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness was stroller-friendly.) But the final straw were the joggers. It’s really hard to feel like you’re a pioneer when you’re sharing the trail with JOGGERS.

Oh well. My sub-arctic adventures need to start somewhere.

So, that is how Bruce and I spent our thirteenth anniversary (two days early). It was a wonderful time.


At 1:48 PM, Blogger Gateway School and Learning Center said...

Sweet! Silly lady walking her silly dog saying silly things to a bonding family. Harumph. So glad you had a great time. I'm amazed Evan stuck it out for so long on such unusual (for him) footgear. Happy 13th Anniversary.

At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I saw your photo and then read your blog, i applaud your effort and say to you, "You go girl!" But I haven't run out to get me a pair yet....


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