The trip I would have never wanted to take. The destination: too unknown and too far away. The travel time: my furthest distance ever traveled on a plane. Not to mention the childcare arrangements for ten days and the anxiety of what may not go to plan in those days back at home. The activities, car pooling, all those meals, baths that would probably never happen and the sibling rivalry and chaos about to be gifted to our poor unsuspecting families. (Well they do know my kids, they must have suspected something!)
I live in an alternate reality the days leading up to whenever Ice and I travel. The urge to stress and worry is never far away. Yet the older I get and the more successful journeys we have taken, this coping method proves to be futile. Simply put it was amazing and far more than I ever imagined.
Ice has been laser-focused for years on visiting Alaska. He pretty much knew whether I was in or not, he was going for his next milestone birthday. There was a pull that was very strong and he needed to discover it. Conveniently too, every milestone birthday he celebrates we also celebrate one in our marriage. How could I not adventure ahead?
After tossing around using the services of a travel agent, he decided he would plan the itinerary himself. Flawlessly I might add. After studying maps and books, guides and magazines, he more than had a handle on what we might want to do and where.
I did my very best to rise to the occasion once being told I could only take a backpack! A back pack you say? Does this man not know I travel with everything but the kitchen sink?! Huge character flaw but I own it. I like to be ready for anything from migraines to surprise dressier occasions to a last minute entry into a 5k or a spontaneous do-it-yourself pedicure. It happens! We went so far as to do a “practice pack” two weeks before just to be sure I could fit all my necessities in my pack. Happy to say it went well and I felt pretty confident I would rock this.
Our journey started off in Juneau at 11 pm on a Thursday night. Walking off the plane in the light of day at that hour was surreal, but so very cool. And I will never forget the intense smell of the trees as we walked outside the airport. It was intoxicating.
We packed so much into those 10 days. The Alaska Railroad, Denali National Park, a Kenai Fjords boat tour for glacier viewing and whale watching, a two-mile sled dog ride with Iditarod-winning dogs and on and on.
But the highlight for me was an eight-hour hike we completed in the Kenai Fjords National Park on the Harding Icefield Trail. It was predicted to rain that day. Not the news I wanted to hear. But we had come prepared with all the gear and all this long way so we were definitely forging ahead.
We had been told the first one-third or so of the trail to be on the lookout for bears. I had become all too familiar with the trepidation of hiking with this knowledge when we were in Denali National Park. But it was still very unsettling and something to try and get used to.
As we set out it was very clear this trail was no joke. In many portions of the trail one misplaced step could have been disastrous. It was exhilarating and sobering all at the same time. Hiking up and up for hours on end.
The more we climbed thoughts just started coming into my head about how this hike was such a metaphor for marriage. There were things to look out for that could have compromised our safety, like the bear danger (of which yes a Mama black bear and her cub were on the trail with us we were told by several hikers but we just missed seeing them in the bushes) – much like the commitment of marriage and the pitfalls so many encounter within their years together.
I truly loved the climb upward. The anticipation of the view at the top kept me going. The climb down would be harder. Harder slowing down the steep momentum in some places and just kind of “been there done that, I want this to be over” feeling took over. Of course Ice was the reverse. He was spurred on by the fact that the climb down would be so much shorter. And in fact once we arrived at our destination and started to head back he encouraged us to run down the mountain together. Run! We ran past many hikers and people asking us “how much longer to the Icefield?” The trail certainly flew by running down the mountain! It took us half the amount of time that first part than it had in the ascent.
In marriage, once you have experienced something and develop your strategy for moving over it, the descent does become quicker as time goes on. It may not be easier, as in my case, but the familiar feeling of a challenge and how to get past it does.
It was right about here that we got lost. We searched for about 30 minutes to pick up the trail. I was getting impatient and wanted to call it. We had gone in several different directions and the trail markings were not leading us where we wanted to go. At times the clouds were nipping at our heels and it felt a little unsettling being up there and losing sight of where we had come from. After encountering some Italian hikers who had spent the night up near the Icefield, they helped direct our way.
“It takes a village” as the saying goes. Many times we need help staying on track. Thankfully my husband and I have our faith and have relied heavily on that. But sometimes others who have gone farther ahead on the journey prove to be great support and sources of wisdom.
And pacing is important. When we were starting off I was leading the way. As things progressed, Ice moved into the pole position. And at times we were separated on that mountain. I stopped frequently to take photographs. His long legs propelled him further at a pace faster than I. We tackled the climb but at a different pace.
But the most standout part of the climb was the beauty, the views and the perspective. We saw so many breathtaking sights. The extreme effort, the uncertainty, the faith in the worth of what lie ahead (the Harding Icefield!)…it all came together as we kept venturing further up that mountain. Who knew Alaska would capture my heart as it did? I would have never accomplished this climb alone. And I was so honored to be asked to do it with this guy.
© Jennifer Scheidt and Titanimom, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Scheidt and Titanimom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.