Why do 23 miles in one day? Sounds like sore legs and aching feet if you ask a chunk of the world's population. But ask any Alaskan and that sounds like an adventurous Saturday!
I had conquered Crow Pass in two days before, a 23 mile hike connecting the towns of Girdwood & Eagle River through the Chugach Mountains. But one day? That just sounded like a bit of a stretch.
Not having adventured more than 10 miles in one day previously, the thought of 23 made my stomach turn.
We decided we would tackle this monster of a hike on a Saturday with a weather window that was clear-ish. Turns out our opportunity was in five days! *Engage slight panic with a sprinkle of excitement.*
We started the hike at about 7:30am, a little later than expected due to a sleepy hiking partner. I strapped on my 36L backpack filled with three liters of water, a rain jacket, extra pair of socks, surf booties, and all my snacks.
The main question when packing for longer day hikes always surrounds food and calories. Three food items I knew to pack included trail mix, energy chews, and a Heather’s Choice Buckwheat Breakfast. I then supplemented with protein cookies and bars throughout the day as needed.
The group consensus was to go the Girdwood to Eagle River route instead of Eagle River to Girdwood. This way we could get the main elevation gain and decline out of the way from the start and cruise the rest of the miles on fairly flat ground.
The trail was pretty wet from the morning dew, and from just being August in Alaska. I wisely put myself in the back of our group of three and ended up getting the least wet #protip.
I started the 23 miles with a protein cookie because who doesn’t love cookies for breakfast - duh! This lasted me about three hours until I started to reach for my trail mix.
Trail mix was a given; the easiest snack to pack and the one thing I will reach for over and over on the trail or off. The crunch and snap of almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc. kept my mind engaged and focused...a necessity as I clambered over the tree roots that like to hook your hiking boots the second you take your eyes off them.
Anyone who has conquered this hike knows about the glacier river crossing. In the early summer months this crossing tends to be about mid-thigh height. With it being August, the water level was about waist high for a majority of the 200 foot crossing. Thank goodness!
We slipped on our surf booties, strapped our hiking boots to our packs and slowly waded our way through the river. This crossing is about the halfway point of the 23 miles, giving my legs a much needed ice plunge to carry me the remaining miles.
After we crossed I took the opportunity for my main refuel with a Heather’s Choice Blueberry Cinnamon Buckwheat Breakfast. I knew this was going to be the best caloric option packed with over 500 calories and 13 grams of protein. It was easy to cold soak for about 7 minutes while letting my legs and feet dry out.
It can be hard to consume calories knowing you still have to keep trekking another 11+ miles, which is why I specifically chose this meal. Not only was it easily digestible, I knew it was going to provide me with the proper nutrition values I needed. It also wasn't going to make me feel overly full and like I needed to nap the rest of the day.
At this halfway point, I was feeling surprisingly well! With my legs recharged and a fresh pair of socks (another #protip), I was ready for the second leg of the day!
I did accidentally take our group on a slight detour away from the trail, but in my defense... I really thought I saw what was the trail! Whoops! It was only about a seven minute detour you guys, no big deal!
We reached the portion of the trail that is pretty bear heavy and we began to notice multiple piles of bear scat. It’s Alaska, there is no getting around bears.
At about three quarters of the way through our day, I reached for my energy chews to kick me into high gear. I was at that point when you ask yourself, “How many more miles?!” and, “Is all this scat from one bear or many bears?” I tried not to express my concerns out loud.
Rounding out the end of the hike my feet, of course, were aching and I wanted to sit down for longer than three minutes at a time, but I felt oddly invigorated and jazzed! Not only by what I had just accomplished, but also the now endless list of other 20+ mile hikes I was mentally planning.
By the time we reached the car, took off our shoes, drank some electrolytes, and snacked on some Peanut M&M’s, I was already expressing my excitement for the next adventure and checking the weather for the following weekend.
I’m not sure my fellow hikers had the same excitement in that moment - but after what can only be described as one of the best nights of sleep, we were already chatting the next morning about where to go next!
When she is not running around the Heather’s Choice HQ, Brooke enjoys summiting Alaskan peaks, extended camping trips, and making a mess in the kitchen.