Hiking Shenanigans near Hope, Alaska
There are places I read about in travel magazines that I file away in the ole’ noggin of must-see sites. In most cases, the description matches my expectation and I am glad I made the time.
This trip, I decide to visit Hope, Alaska, a small former gold mining town located on the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet. It’s a two-hour drive from Seward to Hope, and I’m immediately annoyed I made the trip because there is nothing here but RVs and a couple of closed shops. Upon first glance, Hope reminds me of a modern day ghost town and I wonder if someone named this place Hope because it’s Hopeless.
It’s mid-morning; quiet fills the air and calmness coats the glassy water. I slowly understand the appeal of Hope. It’s quaint but I prefer activity to sleepy towns. If searching for a respite from city life, Hope would be the place to go. Its simplified beauty and serenity make it a place where people are one with nature.
I am not sure what do with myself and I drive around to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I visit Tito’s, the only restaurant open (in fact, the only place to eat) and contemplate my next move. I pore over my map and decide I will go hiking on the Resurrection Pass Trail. I could use a little resurrection. I get to the trail, park the car, sign away my life–name and time of entry with the National Park Service–and hit the trail with little to no knowledge about where I am going or what the trail entails.
There is something incredibly appealing about Alaska. It’s pristine, untouched, beckoning and terrifying. I am on the trail and I’m talking to myself. I notice footprints below and I assume they belong to a moose or bear. I start yelling, “Hey Bear!” Half the time I think my voice sounds like I am calling the bear to greet me, not to scare it away. I’m staring down as I walk because I am a klutz and prone to tripping…but how am I going to spot bears? It’s a conundrum, and as I mull it over, I start to daydream. These prints are definitely those of a wild animal and, from what I learned on my safari years ago, they are fresh.
“I will be ready,” I say to myself.
I’m overdressed and the flies and mosquitoes are attacking me. Since I am dripping sweat, the monsters consider me more attractive meat. I layer down and continue listening to the sounds of the rushing Resurrection Creek. The spruce and aspen forests and some flowers cover the terrain, but I am mostly focused on why the hell I am torturing myself on this hike.
My mind wanders all over the place:
”I am miserable.”
“I am going to have to pee soon.”
“How long have I been walking?”
“Is it time to turn around?”
“Follow your passion.”
“Is this my passion?”
“You cannot love someone else if you don’t love yourself.”
And then I think about the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and my internal dialogue continues. “That’s a bunch of bullshit. Some mother who lived in a forest made that story up so her kids wouldn’t be afraid to go outside.”
“Oh my god.”
It hits me. I am in a place that feeds on my deepest fears. I am a self-proclaimed hypochondriac and I am in a state–in a land– where I am surrounded by everyday threats of tsunamis, avalanches, moose, bear, caribou and wolf attacks, and hypothermia.
How am I on this trail alone, with bear spray I am not entirely sure I know how to use when I couldn’t even leave my job to try something new? When I dated someone on and off for 10 years with no future and I was afraid to be alone. This is madness.
I hear rustling and wake up from my fog. It’s two hikers. We exchange greetings and ask if the other has seen any bears. (I’ve learned by now that this is a normal line of questioning in Alaska.) The couple tells me I should be in good shape because three hikers and a dog are about a mile ahead of me. I giggle.
Those big bad prints belonged to a dog. I cannot stop laughing. I take the time to pee, squatting as the mosquitoes bite into me and then I turn back. The return walk seems longer than I remember but I am strong and confident. I can take on the bears. I shoot a video for my friend who urged me to visit Alaska, still laughing about the bear “claws” I discovered.
After a four-hour-hike, I arrive back to the car and initial my safe return with the ranger’s log. Now, where should I stay tonight?