10 Things I Learned About Hiking in Alaska
John and I are in Anchorage, Alaska, for just a few days for a work meeting he's attending. Before we got here, a couple of his colleagues expressed an interest in doing a hike up Flat Top Mountain, one of the most popular sights in Anchorage. The concept sounded OK to me so I checked out the web listing and watched a video that showed families of all ages taking a leisurely walk in the park, if you will. There were lots of well-established paths that looked more like sidewalks and everyone looked relaxed and carefree.
You probably know where this is going. It was NOT a walk in the park. Rather than write some blow-by-blow account about about my brush with near death, I've decided to take an adult approach and focus on what I learned from this experience. I share this with you, gentle reader, in hopes that you, too, can profit from my new found wisdom.
1. Do not believe website and television promos for an easy hike up to Flat Top Mountain. They lie like a rug.
2. Get a full background report on the fitness of the people you will be hiking with. Key words to pay attention to are "just finished a marathon with my daughter" and "I teach a fitness class at 5 am twice a week". They may be at a different endurance level than you.
3. Alaska residents are not just joking or making conversation when they casually comment that they're going to bring bear spray "just in case".
4. Be very wary when you can barely see a flag flying in the distance at the top of a mountain. It is not just because your eyes are going bad; your destination is actually that high up.
5. If you can't see where the makeshift timber stairs end as you look straight up, it's because they don't end. They actually do go on forever at a very steep grade.
6. Winds blowing 40-50 mph are not only bone-chilling cold but can knock you on your ass while you're trying to climb up a mountain.
7. A steep vertical climb 3,510 feet high is probably not a good idea for someone who has a deep-rooted fear of heights.
8. You don't see a lot of scenery when you're on a death march straight up a mountain of rugged terrain. You do, however, know exactly what your shoes look like after keeping your eyes locked on them for a couple of hours.
9. Knowing your limit of when to stop is a good thing. Had I not had the good sense to stop just before the final ascent to the flag at the top, you'd still be reading this account but it would be called an obituary.
10. Don't try to argue with your husband to go ahead without you. He won't do it. Take comfort in knowing that you've single-handedly saved both of your lives.
We leave Alaska on Saturday. Unless John gets some other hair-brained idea to risk my life by trying yet another outdoorsy activity, I'll be confining my hiking to flat land feeling completely satisfied that I've learned enough about hiking in Alaska for one trip.
P.S. No photos available. Combination of technical difficulties and who can focus on pictures when your life can end at any moment.