Hike it, Baby

 

“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R Tolkien

This ubiquitous quote remains one of my favorites because I identify with it so much–indeed I wander to find myself.  I usually feel far from lost while on a trail or not (except this one time in Utah when the sun was getting low, and we could not find our camp site after a post-dinner walkabout).  With a decent map and a fair sense of direction (and the help of today’s technology) getting truly lost can be fairly difficult.  As far as hiking goes, I am quick to qualify many wanderings and walks as hikes.  If I’m wearing hiking boots, walk on trails away from a roadway or take more than 30 minutes, my walk becomes a hike.  It turns out I take lots of hikes!

We found snow in the mountains during this hike on Nov. 24 when there wasn't any in the lowlands.

We found snow while wandering through a mountain meadow a couple weeks back. Yay Snow!

I hike with and without friends, but I almost always have my dog and baby with me.  They are my biggest motivators to actually go out and get these hikes hiked!  I love hiking during the holiday season for many reasons: first and foremost I really like to eat, and I’m not very willing to cut back on my helpings…so I hike off the calories before and/or after I pig out!  While upping my ability to consume more calories is pretty incredible, there are still other–probably more important–reasons I like to explore on foot.

My loves overlooking a glacier during an unrelenting uphill hike in McCarthy Alaska.

My loves overlooking a glacier during an unrelenting uphill hike in McCarthy Alaska.

We were very fortunate to have an extended fall this year while many others throughout the United States have been living in the white stuff for several weeks.  Fall is usually quick and wet here followed by howling winds and whipping snow…but it was different this year. The rains were not monsoon-like and the winds have been few and far between.  All of October and much of November were mild and sunny—perfect hiking weather.

Perfect Fall weather for a Lazy Mountain hike with our mountaineering friend, Emma.

Perfect Fall weather for a Lazy Mountain hike with our mountaineering friend, Emma.

Hike it, Baby!  Hiking with other moms and their babies is super fun!

Hike it, Baby! My farmer friend, Melisse, and her son who is just two weeks younger than Ava.  Hiking with other moms and their babies is super fun!

Really, what weather isn’t good for hiking?  Cold Rain is bad, as are terrible winds and white out snow conditions.  Then again, what activities are good in those types of weather?  Reading and drinking cocoa are the best options that come to mind.  Hiking can and should be done in all the other types of weather–hot or cold, dry or damp, still or breezy.  I guess too much snow can also be a major hindrance.  I remember a woodland hike with a friend a few years ago where we ended up slogging and post-holing through thigh high snow (we ended up crawling a fair amount of the way), wondering if we would ever make it out of the woods–why didn’t we bring snow shoes?!

Snack time on a sunny trail.

Snack time/building a healthy immune system on a sunny trail.

Each season brings its own best kind of hiking–the morning cold of spring and fall makes otherwise sloppy trails frozen and lovely, the long days of summer make the long haul multi-hour hikes possible, and the scarceness of winter makes otherwise overgrown trails much easier to navigate.

Hiking makes me a happier, better mommy.

Hiking makes me a happier, better mommy.

Throughout the summer, my friend Mimi over at Brown Dog Farm and I were “Hiking Buddies” which I originally misheard as “Hugging Buddies” when Mimi proposed this label for our Monday hikes.  We are pretty good hugging buddies, and we did some fun hikes this summer—scaling some mountains, meandering on old railroad tracks and tromping through the forest.  After Mimi left for the winter I was kind of lame and didn’t go on many hikes for a couple of weeks.  Since the farming season is over this means that I spent WAY too much time inside–not a good thing for any Farmgirl.

 

Mimi nearly to the top of a VERY windy Gold Bullion Mountain hike.

Mimi nearly to the top of a VERY windy Gold Bullion Mountain hike.

It is very noticeable when we don’t get outside enough.  Moki, our dog, drives me nuts and turns into a “bad” dog barking and chasing things; Ava gets bored with her toys and a bit clingy; and I get anxious about silly things.  So, I try to get out on at least a little walk at least 4 times per week.  I strap Ava on my back in a baby carrier and we walk with friends or solo in different parks and on various trails.  I’m usually gone for about an hour.  Ava falls asleep to the rhythm of walking, and Moki runs many times the distance that I end up traveling as she runs up and down the trail, weaving back and forth through trees and brush.  Getting out in the woods or the mountains is a kind of meditation for me.  It clears my head. It helps me appreciate what is important and disregard that which is not. 

A tired dog is a good dog (and a happy one)

A tired dog is a good dog (and a happy one).  Finding Snow off trail at Hatcher Pass Rec. Area

My friend Amanda and her pooches.  This turned into a much longer hike than expected when we meandered off trail!  At least the company was great.

My friend Amanda and her pooches. This turned into a much longer hike than expected when we meandered off trail! At least the company was great.

 

It just snowed here for the first time right before Thanksgiving, and it has been snowing fairly consistently ever since, giving us about ten inches of fluffy, sparkly snow on everything.  Ava, Moki and I went on a hike at Spring Creek Farm (the first farm I worked on in AK) in the softly falling flakes.  Moki showed me her agility by taking flying leaps onto large bales of hay, and Ava snoozed under a hood so snow wouldn’t melt into her cute little snow suit.  One of my favorite things to do is be the first to break trail after a fresh snow fall.  For many of the trails on the farm, this is necessary because after too many snowfalls the trails will be indiscernible until spring reveals their paths once again.

You can't see Ava in this photo, but she's sleeping on my back and Moki is checking on her from her snow covered hay bale perch.

You can’t see Ava in this photo, but she’s sleeping on my back and Moki is checking on her from her snow covered hay bale perch.

Breaking trail in freshly fallen snow.

Breaking trail in freshly fallen snow.

 While hiking clears my mind and helps organize thoughts, I also enjoy how it familiarizes one with the land.  I’ve hiked some trails dozens and dozens of times in all seasons and all times of the day.  In doing this, I’ve been able to observe the land and take note of how it changes from month to month and year to year.  In scientific terms, this is called phenology, and it was used by great environmentalists like Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson to record shifts in weather patterns and animal behaviors.  I like to think I’m following in their footsteps by taking mental notes of the places I love most.  One thing I’ve noted this year is how low the water is everywhere–the fen I love to walk on in the winter and examine the frozen creatures through crystal clear ice is super dry, it almost looks like a hay field.  The “skating pond” we found a couple of years ago is just a dried up frozen puddle.  I wonder what this means for the coming spring?  Will it be drier than usual as the ground thaws?  Will we be able to till the fields earlier?

Even as the snow accumulates and the skis, skates and snowshoes come out, sometimes it’s so nice to just be able to go out and enjoy nature without loads of equipment. As a nod to Thanksgiving, I am so grateful to have a healthy body and mind that allow me to enjoy the world on foot.  

My favorite hiking companions--my family!  Hiking up the Jumbo Mine trail in McCarthy, Alaska.

My favorite hiking companions–my family! Hiking up the Jumbo Mine trail in McCarthy, Alaska.

Are you a wandering walker?  Do you hike, tromp, meander or amble?  How do you incorporate these activities into the few short hours of daylight that this sometimes stressful holiday season brings us?

Until next time, Happy Trails!

Sending peace and love from AK, 

Alex, your Rural Farmgirl

 

Leave a comment 7 Comments

  1. Maria Reyes says:

    Reading your post was totally amazing. I have been sitting at this same job now for about 21+ years and how I envy your life style. I went to Alaska two years ago, but from a tourist point, no hiking and getting into the wild. Once you get past a certain age you are afraid to do anything mainly fear of the unknown. I commend you for all that you do for yourself your family and your surroundings. Wishing you the best always. Maria

  2. Joan says:

    Fun hike, unfortunately I don’t walk very well so all hiking will have to be done through you and your wonderful family.
    God bless.

  3. Debbie says:

    Hey Alex! You DO look happy out on the trail and so does Ava and your pooch! Reading your post reminded me of the hiking my hubby and I used to do in the Sierra Nevada’s. We hiked Mt. Rose ( a great day hike) with great friends one day with a reward of bbq ribs at the end of the day. Boy did we need it… Trail mix and water only go so far on an 8 hour hike! We also mountain biked, canoed and cross country skied too! It seems like forever ago.. These days our walks are mostly on the beach but you post has inspired me to get out and discover some of our forest walks/hikes. Yes! Even in winter! Max our corgi and my moms dog Barkley would love it! I miss wondering off the beaten path and getting to know a different piece of land well. Blessings to you and your sweet family! Love, Deb, the Beach Farmgirl!

  4. Denise Ross says:

    I run and swim and so exercise class on the bike every week. I used to hike when I was a child with my family, but that was a while back now. I would love to get back into hiking because of all the benefits you mention here, until then I’ll keep fit so when I can get back to hiking I’ll be fit enough to enjoy it

  5. Dori Troutman says:

    Alex, what a great post with beautiful pictures! And your precious little Ava is just such a doll baby. Where in Utah were you when you lost your campsite?! My husband and I lived in Southern Utah for 27 years. Raised our kids hiking all over the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (our property actually bordered it). My son also rode his horse for miles and miles in the Monument land. He “rescued” a number of tourists that, unfortunately, relied on their GPS to get them where they were going and got lost, stuck, or ran out of fuel in that vast Monument land. You can probably relate to that in Alaska too huh? Loved your post. – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks, Dori! We spent about a month in Southern Utah about 4 years ago and LOVED it. There is something really special about the desert. I can’t wait to go back. We were camping on one of the Bear’s Ears near Blanding when we got lost. It’s so cool that you lived there with land bordering a NM! Your kids must have had awesome (and unusual) childhoods.

  6. Evelyn says:

    When my kids were small, I think I would have lost my mind if I hadn’t been able to get outside and walk, both alone with my babies and with other moms. It was good for all of us. Don’t be afraid of the weather…ours was always rainy…just bundle up and go for it!

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