A heavy blanket of fog wrestled with the morning sun as I poked my head out of our tent. My 'roommate' Vladimir was still sound asleep, buried in his own sleeping bag. He must have been tired trying to maintain a bonfire while it was raining the previous evening. As for me, I've slept well ahead of others, lulled by the sound of rain and dreaming of a sunny day.
The camp ground was wet. Since Dave was making breakfast, I went straight to the bathroom, a good 5-minute walk away from our tents. It was huge and well-maintained by camp ground crew, something I never expected in Alaska. Plentiful hot running water was its best feature. Once done with bathroom rituals, I got back just in time to hear Russ - a member in our group - recounting seeing a bear passing through.
"Russ was just too cool about it", Dave said while flipping pancakes. "While others would have been freaked out, he merely said 'oh, that's a bear'". Oh well, I would have probably just grabbed my camera and fired away. It was actually Russ' birthday - probably his stars have aligned properly to let him see this beast which I've been denied of encountering since this trip began.
"Don't worry guys", Dave talked in his reassuring way. "After you fill yourselves with pancakes and cereals, we're heading out for a warm-up walk before you hop on those sea kayaks".
"Walk to where?", I asked.
"You'll soon see", Dave answered. "Never been back there in two years. My favorite in Valdez".
We parked the van right before the Water Tower where the trail will start. While I knew it rained the previous night, I didn't think of wearing my Columbia Omni-Tech pants over my hiking pants, something which I would regret later on. Dave told us the walk will take us about half an hour up.
No sooner have we left the Water Tower and we were already engulfed by intense overgrowth. The trail was not visible at all. It was muddy and slippery in many places. At some point, the steep path turned rocky and very slick. There was even an old rope left in place to help hikers hurl themselves up. What was unnerving was the sheer drop-offs to our right which plummets all the way down to the school below.
From our precarious perch, we had to "crab walk" going down as we were on a very slippery slope. Even so, a few of us still ended up hitting our rear ends and getting muddied in the process. My hiking pants has not only been muddied but very wet as well. At least that's the only 'misery' I had to endure.
|High School Hill|
Back at the van, we changed into dry clothing and drove the short distance to Pangaea Adventures - a local outfitter that will take us on a sea kayaking trip close to a glacier. Now that the skies have cleared, High School Hill finally came into full glorious view. It was a walk that more than warmed me up. I'm so ready for more.
(Note: Trip was arranged by Get Up and Go!, a locally-owned adventure tour company based in Anchorage, Alaska)