In a recent display of tenacity, mediocre coordination skills and a deep love for the outdoors, some friends and I strapped on our packs for a weekend in the woods of Resurrection Pass Trail in Cooper Landing.
Our target was Juneau Lake, which I had hiked to a few years prior.
I anticipated a fun but likely tiring trek through the first leg of Resurrection Pass with my friends. I knew I was in worse shape than the last time I’d done the hike, but was excited for the views it would provide and the good weather in the forecast.
My boots had other plans.
My old pair of Timberland hiking boots were purchased on sale through an online outdoor gear company in somewhat of a hurry before a 10-day trek through the Appalachians during my freshman year of college. After a mad dash to break them in, they served me well on my first big hiking trip and for several years after that.
Recently, though, something has started to change. I don’t know enough about hiking boots to know if this is in fact a real thing, but my boots seem to have grown stiffer and less forgiving with age. So much so that within the last few years, I haven’t been excited to take them out for more than a few miles.
If I was looking for proof that they were ready to retire, I probably could have found it on a shorter hike than the one to Juneau Lake. The first few miles were devoted to water breaks while climbing up the meandering switchbacks to Juneau Falls. Then the excitement of reaching the halfway point erased any growing fears I had about my boots’ trustworthiness.
Around mile 6 or so, though, it became abundantly clear we were no longer on the same page. I wanted to keep up with my friends. I wanted to reach our campsite that evening and enjoy food around the fire. My boots wanted nothing to do with that. There were moments I contemplated throwing them into the bushes and continuing on in the Birkenstocks I had packed for walking around our campsite. It would have been a very Homer way to finish a hike, at least.
(Please do not throw your boots or anything else into the bushes. Leave No Trace!)
Our eventual arrival at Juneau Lake was a combination of relief and the pain of coaxing my feet out of their laced prisons. My friends marveled in equal parts amusement and pity that they’d never seen someone get a blister underneath a callous before. What can I say? I’m here to break boundaries.
We all went to bed tired, full and happy to be done hiking that night. The next morning, I approached the edge of Juneau Lake to fill my gravity water filter for the all-important and life-giving coffee that I never camp without.
The serenity of a glass-smooth lake and feeling a gentle morning breeze across my skin was almost enough to make me forget that I would have to repeat the previous day’s hike in just over 24 hours.
A quick side note: If you camp regularly and don’t yet own a gravity water filter, drop what you’re doing and go buy one. They not only make group camping much more convenient, but shave off precious coffee-making minutes otherwise spent waiting for water to boil.
(Am I an influencer now?)
After an unplanned mid-day campsite switch, my companions and I settled into our tents and hammocks next to a rushing stream tucked away just off the main trail. This was not before we took a leisurely walk around Juneau Lake, stepping out of the way for myriad mountain bikers who made us feel embarrassed for complaining about the difficulty of merely walking through Resurrection Pass.
At our second campsite, spirits picked up, afternoon naps were had, fireside chatter ensued. Despite my tender feet taking up a large portion of my memory from that trip, I still fondly recall a few other things. The things that make hiking and blisters and sunburned noses worth it:
Feet submerged in a cold lake, cheeks warmed by a crackling fire, and a stomach filled with hard-earned food. A new card game played in a darkening cabin. A sunset peaceful enough to sneak up on you, but so stunning as to distract from one’s game.
Jokes shared around a fire — words tumbling over one another. Rain tapping out a rhythm across the top of a tent.
The sights, sounds and smells of Resurrection Pass, especially when shared with friends, are enough to make one hike nine miles in painful boots. And back again.