High School Hill

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".

The fog was still lying low as we drove away from the campground and into a neat residential area of Valdez. Just behind Valdez High School juts this seemingly-barren hill, simply called High School Hill. It's about 500 meters high. On any clear day, this along with the other peaks around the area, overlooks Valdez and the port.

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.

As we rested and sat on a rocky ledge, the fog that was covering much of Valdez started to fade away giving us glimpses of the houses below. The view of surrounding peaks were just spectacular. It's still a long slippery slog up the top of this hill but we were already happy with what we've reached. Besides, we needed to conserve our energies for the next activity.

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)


  1. I love the misty morning shots. But I can just imagine the cold, brrrr.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Does Dave have liability insurance? If not, is he incorporated? From you account, he is such a nice guy I hate to see the guy get screwed by clients other than guys like you. Tell him to cover his behind because one mishap can ruin his business or his life. Take care also because one missed step in an unmarked trail can mean heaven or hell LOL.

  3. Wow, this is an awesome trip: air, land, and now sea kayaking! Your crab walking reminded me of my caving experience in Sagada; people there called it 5-wheel-driving, using your four limbs and your butt!

  4. Photo Cache,
    It wasn't very cold, especially during the hike up the hill - it was in the lower 50's that time.

    He's a very experienced guide of Getupandgotours which arranged this fantastic trip. He basically matches impromptu activities based on capabilities he sees among his clients.

    The crab walk was fun only if it wasn't scary what with the steep drop-offs close to us. The kayaking trip coming up next is a highlight!

  5. my favorite trek will always be the ones when its almost all fog. saya sigurado nitong trek n to. laging astig!

  6. i love cloudy shots.. it's a heavenly feeling.. yung paa na picture, effective kala ko mahuhulog na.. :)

  7. ive been always curious about your gears. how did you endure your icy treks? share..

  8. dong ho,
    fog adds drama to the scene but I don't want it to linger so long that it will rob as of the views.

    ardee sean,
    I deliberately added my 'paa' to show the extent of how wet my pants have become.

    now that you mentioned it, I'm going to share it on my next post. Promise :)

  9. What a nice way to warm up before sea kayaking! (some folks are really lucky when it comes to spotting wild life)

  10. I am back to blog hopping, I have been on blog leave for quite a time. A lot of new adventures you had. I wonder how you strategize to do all these, especially the 'absence from work' part. :)


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