No Turning Back
By JEFF LUND
September 06, 2016
(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - The plan looked good on Google Earth, but on real earth, I wasn’t so sure. So I scrapped it and kept on the trail until I was near the top of Mahoney Mountain.
All directions of the open alpine called me. I had cell phone reception, so I texted my buddy and informed him hunting had turned to hiking and since I was part way through the traverse, I was going to finish it.
Judging by how docile the Deer Mountain side of the traverse was, I figured it would be pretty easy since I was already on the ridge. But the ridge isn’t really connected. It dives down into a fussy little pass, then ascends back up above 3,000 feet. I picked my way down the slope and encountered…ropes? Maybe this is why the Forest Service trail guide states: “Hikers…should be experienced with the use of maps, compass and/or GPS as well as having knowledge of the trail route.”
Lesson learned. No problem.
Down one rope to the bottom of the cut in the ridge, then up another. Then another. Then sleep climbing. Sweat. So much sweat. I had my pack, my rifle and was wearing fleece-lined camo pants. Yeah. Fleece-lined in 70 degrees.
I don’t want to talk about it.
Anyway, the ridge continued, each time opening up different landscapes. Flat shelves with small ponds, lakes and even patches of snow. There were small, rounded steps covered in trees with sheer cliffs on both sides. There were gradual slopes carpeted in vegetation with scattered boulders and rounded rock slopes with scattered vegetation. The trail continued and I got my first glimpse of the ocean. More miles to go, but I was getting there.
Of course, the ridge dove again. At the bottom was Blue Lake. I texted a picture. A friend recommended I swim there but I worried that I’d go for a swim, sprawl out for a nap and never get back up. It’s hard to get the engine going again once it’s been off for an extended period of time.
So I continued. Up a steep incline and further down the ridge.
I started wondering what was happening below me. The previous week I was on the Whitman Lake side of the trail, watching people emerge from the ridge and side-hill toward Deer Mountain. Below them, maybe 300 yards was a bear. Both were oblivious to each other. I’d yell if either closed the gap, but neither did. I wondered if there was a bear, or goats, or deer just below the trail because wild still happens here. It’s not hemmed in by fences, roads or boundaries. All we’ve done has been done by foot traffic to carve a small trail through rugged territory.
It’s easy to keep moving when you think about this. That and the fact that you can’t turn back because it’ll add extra miles and you can’t just sit down, because the rest of the trail isn’t going to hike itself. You again marvel at how different real life is compared to a screen, and though your hamstrings will feel a little tight tomorrow, there is no doubt it was worth it.
Jeff Lund is a Teacher, Freelance Writer, living in Ketchikan, Alaska
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