By Janelle Eklund
On a mild June 4th day clouds hung in the sky moving with the wind and letting the sun peak through now and then. Twenty eight hikers of all ages gathered in a circle at the Liberty Falls trailhead listening to instructions on bear and trail safety and etiquette. The youngest of the group was two and half and he just happened to be the Executive Editor of the local newspaper. Or should I say, his soon-to-be-born brother was the youngest on this hike - except he had an easy ride and didn't have to climb like his brother - hah!
Everyone was eager for the adventure up the trail. And UP it was! The first part of the trail was a steep climb through the boreal forest. As we came out of the trees rocky outcrops were bobbing with alpine flowers. The wind was howling up the Copper River and pounding us with its fury.
We found a spot that was somewhat protected by the onslaught and settled down for a lesson on wilderness first aid splinting techniques. A lesson was led showing how to use tools at hand to improvise a splint for a broken arm. These tools consisted of anything from sticks to the clothes on your back. Another demonstration showed how to turn a t-shirt into a long bandage by starting at the bottom of the shirt and cutting in a circular pattern all the way to the top. Coats and shirts were used for padding and bandannas for securing. A few conventional tools were utilized like Sam splints and triangular bandages. As I filtered through taking pictures I heard comments like - 'this is fun!'
Hunger pangs were taking hold and lunches started creeping out of packs. The wind was relentless and if you didn't want it to take your lunch it was best to hang on to it.
Tummies satisfied, we continued the trek. The up and down steep rocky mounds didn't deter anyone from turning around - even the two and a half year old Executive Editor of the paper! No, he was in his element. At that age the term 'curtain climber' has significant meaning. But this little one is a 'mountain climber'. He gave us a lesson or two. If it's too steep going down you just sit on your bum and take it slow and easy. If it's too steep going up you just bend over and use all fours. Needless to say to do this he had to put the tape measure he was carrying in his pocket. Don’t ask me why he was carrying a tape measure.
The end of our trek was a large rocky point overlooking a lake below with a backdrop of the Kenny Lake area in the distance. Lingering there awhile everyone enjoyed the view and rest contemplating the beauty of the land.
The trek back was much the same. Curtains of transparent rain clouds drifted across the Copper River drainage, obscuring the Wrangell Mountains in the background. A few drops kissed our faces and immediately dissipated.
I had the pleasure of following the Executive Editor down the trail. I was very impressed. He walked the whole way (1 1/2 to 2 miles) up and down steep terrain without a whimper and brushing aside any help! I was also impressed with mom and her soon-to-be-born son, making the trek with ease.
Back at the trailhead, where the wind was calm and the mosquitoes were not, a lesson was given on wilderness hypothermia. The youngsters enjoyed learning to wrap someone snuggly in a sleeping bag surrounded by a tarp to keep them warm.
It was a good day. The camaraderie was contagious, the views were spectacular, the lessons were fun and educational, the trek was invigorating, and the wind kept the mosquitoes down. What more could you ask for?
From my light to yours-
This hike was sponsored by Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.