May brings more light and with it more manic adventures
Immediately following spring equinox on March 21, Anchorage gains six minutes of sunlight every day. By summer solstice we’ll be ringing in 19 hours of daylight total. In contrast, our shortest day lands at just over five hours in December. These are facts we know, but somewhere in late spring, when the snow is virtually gone, reality tends to hit us. We’re exiting one extreme and hurling at lightning speed toward another. We live a manic lifestyle and in May, we feel it.
My dad’s old Jeep clunked down Crow Creek Road. It was too damn early and I had a lingering headache from the previous night’s wine-drunk. As we pulled into the trailhead parking lot, the question of throwing in the towel hung in the air. What would be so bad about three extra hours of sleep and a relaxing Memorial Day barbecue? I could sleep it off and come back out the following weekend.
But as I threw back the last of my crappy drip coffee, I knew I was in this one for the long haul. So, keeping my upper lip stiff as a board, I pushed the thought away, threw on my pack, and slugged up the trail – only 23 miles to go.
My hip straps rubbed and chafed the way they do when you haven’t worn them in awhile and my feet felt heavy. Did I mention it was too damn early? Crow Pass is a novice thru-hike really, with the majority of its elevation gain in the first 3 miles followed by plenty of downhill terrain. But, as the first big hike of the season, on this morning, it might as well have been Mount Everest.
The miles passed with my husband in the lead. I walked several paces back, realizing that small children were passing me with ease. Though a bit demoralized, I moved forward and things, as they always do, started to pick up. We arrived at the Crow Pass Cabin – a common turn around point for day hikers – and I breathed in the foggy mist, felt the stiffness in my legs fade and crunched through the snow punctuating the pass. There it was. That feeling.
May in Alaska is its own kind of insanity. It’s not quite summer, but it might as well be. We’re wringing out the dampness of break-up, and maniacally running errands until 11 p.m. because, hey, the sun’s still out. We’re in that period where the hours of civil twilight are no longer civil. Our out-of-state friends mock us as we gawk at the new light hours, forgoing sleep in the name of adventure. “This happens every year,” they say “and you’re still shocked every time.”
And they’re right. We forget what it’s like to pack each and every day to the brim with activity. We love the winter, with its short days, cozy socks and its winter sports. But then the world thaws and we remember summer. We snap out of our winter haze, we brush off the dust, rub the sleep from our eyes and catch the first hint of that itchy, restless, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” feeling.
And that’s where I was. Somewhere mid-Crow Pass Trail, running on three hours of sleep and Ménagé Trois Red Blend, I was sweating and laughing and walking and loving every single second of it.
I knew then, as I do now, the first hike is only one of many late nights followed by long days. There will be fishing all-nighters, 3 a.m. campfires, and thru-hikes followed by Monday mornings feeling sore and sleep deprived and alive. It happens every year. We make that silent pact, that secret but universal vow to not be a wimp, to stay up late and get out early. That solitary pledge we honor with each missed hour of sleep: “Don’t you dare miss a single second of it.”