My husband and I happened across the Dewey Lake trail system while visiting Skagway, Alaska on our first cruise together. After three days stuffing ourselves with rich food and lounging on deck chairs, a hike sounded perfect.
Of course, anyone else would be more sensible than to go off hiking in Alaska... with little to no real hiking experience or trail map in hand. A couple day hikes in the Piedmont of South Carolina with either my husband or dad in the month approaching this cruise really don't prepare one for the dramatic ecological differences; ie, the habitats of black bears, grizzlies, Kodiak bears, and (much further north, thank God) even polar bears. Having said that, though, it should be noted that said day hikes had instilled within me a new enthusiasm and excitement for the outdoors; the exercise of hiking, the unique challenges presented, the peace of traveling the depths of the wilderness!
The first half mile was made up of fierce switchbacks, picking up elevation so fast that before long I was taking bird's eye view shots of downtown Skagway. Once we approached Dewey Lake, the trails diverged and we decided to head towards a waterfall (that I won't bother naming as we never made it, curse that scheduled excursion). We were about two miles into our hike when we started seeing evidence of bears.
Previous to this trail, I probably would have squealed with glee over the thought of seeing tracks of any animal. Most inexperienced hikers dont' respect the reality of a bear sighting; and we were definitely of that vein.
I snapped a photo of the bear tracks in the mud, and wondered if the shredded bark at my eye level was evidence of bears. A little further on, the woods grow thick and dark and of course, I start to panic a bit inwardly.
"Steven, I think we should keep our voices down and be a bit more weary."
Silence. "OK. I'm watchin'."
I start almost tip-toeing along the trail, craning my neck to see further into the brush. "No, seriously... we need to keep our eyes and ears wide open so that we don't get caught unawares."
Of course, this is the moment that shuffling sounds in the leaves next to the tree I was approaching turn into a rather violent sweep of motion from the ground onto a branch, and behold!
I scream like a girl as the fierce little squirrel squeaks at me in terror from the idiot Carolinian who thought his movement amongst the underbrush had been... well... a bear. Yap.
Much to my dismay, I can't quite shake this anecdote. Steven spent another hour and a half on the trail with me, squeaking randomly like a squirrel, and when we were sharing photos of the cruise with my family, of course the story came out.
My sister's response? Google "Alaskan squirrels" and fall into hysterics when a picture of Theodore from the Chipmunks comes up.
My mom wisely kept quiet. She commonly does worse when out in the woods... or just fifty feet distance from a grounded toilet.
My dad, however, had to take it one step closer... and come up with Microbear. Now, he has not so far referred to me as Microbear; but for lack of any other more creative or poetic devices with which to title what I hope will become a public journal of my future trail excursions, it seems fitting.
I'm a little over five foot, petite, and I hate that word. I had to special order a pack small enough. Physically, hiking can be intense for me. I'm very much a rookie. I have a lot to learn. This is very much about a passion for the outdoors, and a need to accomplish something different. My dad and I talk about doing the Appalachian Trail. I have no idea if that's realistic, but I know if my dad wants to try it, I'd say let's go! It's gotten to me, and I'd like to share that, record it, remember.
So, this is Microbear; I'll say it with a smile now. The girl that screamed and ran from a squirrel is going to brave the outdoors!