From instructor Talley: Well, THAT was an adventure! When last I wrote, we were headed out for our first backpack in Denali State Park. We split into two teams of hikers and began our journey the next day. Little did we know how much we would experience over the course of the backpack – or how it would draw us together as an expedition!
A light drizzle welcomed both groups at their trail heads as we set off for Kesugi Ridge, a rise of land paralleling the larger Alaska range. Up we went through brush and forest, knowing that after the first five miles or so the terrain would open into a ridge line. Clouds parted and gathered during the hike, offering us glimpses of braided rivers in the valley below. Packs were heavy and clothes were wet, but we sang and shouted our way up to the ridge in no time!
The ridge line was rolling, open, and brilliant green even through the fog. We crossed small pockets of snow, tumbling creeks, and screes of moraine before pausing for the first night’s camping. We were all dazzled when, around dinnertime, the clouds shifted and moved through the valley to give us views of the Alaska range. HOLY COW – those mountains are GORGEOUS! Seeing them emerge after a hard day’s work was incredible – we whooped and hollered so much that a couple of us lost our voices entirely!
Even though we’d just begun, we knew a lot of the climbing was behind us; aside from a descent and climb across one creek valley, we looked forward to fairly mild ups-and-downs for the majority of our backpack. But you always have to expect the unexpected…and sure enough, some challenging weather was rolling in to liven things up.
Rain, wind, and cold. Those three factors greatly affected our next few days. The mild ups-and-downs of the trail left us with little protection from the elements as we continued on our way. Even mild ups-and-downs can feel pretty dramatic if you’re stringing eight miles’ worth together through bad weather!
I’ve been working with Adventure Treks since 2010, and I’ve seen all kinds of communities respond to all kinds of conditions – but I have never been as impressed by a group of students as I was on this backpack. Not only did they consistently opt to keep going and meet distance goals, but they immediately began supporting each other with both kindness and grit. Whether it was Kela shouting “you’re getting shredded with every step!” to encourage us up hills, Lily volunteering to take heavier gear every morning, or Amara staying out to set up tarps with instructors during the worst of the weather, every single student participated in keeping spirits high and systems functioning. Moreover, students showed appreciation for each other and good humor even during the most difficult moments. It’s hard to convey how much that matters to a community (or, for that matter, to instructors). That we moved through that backpack both safely and with good attitudes is an enormous achievement!
Today, we’re celebrating by taking a day off. We slept in a bit, got camp situated, and rolled into town for a movie break! During this time muscles can relax, blisters can heal, and community can continue forming…until tomorrow, when we head into the backcountry again!
Wish us clear skies! And meantime, please know you have every reason to be proud of your child.