After two years away from home, familiar foods and mountains help to re-anchor and refuel my ebbing spirit. I continue to be surprised by how many foods I forgot about until I saw them again. One of those foods that I definitely thought about often during my time away was Cheeze-Its. In two years, I ate only one box of the crackers that my wife managed to secure. On some days, the cravings for them got pretty strong. So with a real sense of satisfaction, I recently filled up a Ziploc bag with the tasty stuff, headed out for a hike in Hiland Valley, and stepped into a round of hiking re-entry in my Chugach Mountains.

*Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Now, just what exactly is hiking re-entry? At the moment, it remains a new phrase that I’m coining based upon my field of study, intercultural studies, and my favorite pastime. Re-entry addresses the process of reverse culture shock and unexpected difficulties readjusting to a previously familiar environment upon return after an extended period of time away. On the non-hiking front, things like carpeted floors, throwing toilet paper into the toilet, and icy cold water coming from the faucet all happen in Alaska but not really in Taiwan. While I grew up with these realities, a few years away has forced me to readjust to these things.

Double “C” Wonders

So off I went for my first hike in just over two years back in a sub-arctic mountain environment. Not even some unexpected news and a round of waiting for road construction could depress my enthusiasm about the occasion. Ah, I pulled into the parking lot and prepared to set off on the trail. That is when I ran into the first change—a parking fee station. In fact, I nearly missed it altogether. On that note, the South Fork Eagle River/Hiland Trailhead now requires a $5 parking fee for day use. While able to solve that delay quickly, it also marked my first bout with hiking re-entry for the day.

I started off a little slower than my previous average pace. It did not take too long until I came upon a patch of snow left over from last winter. Snow from the last winter for the area anyhow. I hadn’t been in the presence of that much snow in over two years. While most Alaskans live for summer, this one started to miss winter a bit after awhile. On that comfortable sunny day, I chuckled to realize that this marked my greatest brush with winter in some time. Speaking of the sun, I kind of kicked myself for not putting sunblock on my face before setting out. It turned out fine. I guess my subconscious got it right in that instance. And of course, the sun proves a lot less of an enemy high in the Alaskan sky than the Taiwan one!

Just Taking It In (Eagle Lake from Lookout Point)

I made it to the first bridge in the expected hour. The section after the bridge seemed muddier than I remembered from past early springs. I hopped and stepped my way around the worst sections via detours and using low thick branches as a sort of webbing. On my way back out, I met a group that had just come through the wettest sections. As they pulled off their wet socks, one of them asked if I managed to keep my feet dry. Not only did I answer in the affirmative, but I noticed my boots had barely even collected mud. This gave me a real boost about my trail skills retention and helped with my hiking re-entry efforts. I guess I still possess the ability to pick pretty good route options.

When I reached my primary destination, I found myself content to just sit and soak in the surroundings. For nearly an hour, I just took it in, visited old memories, and generally enjoyed myself. Usually, I push a bit further up one of the valley forks for further exploring. This time, I happily “settled” for drinking up the grandeur around me. The lesson is to move slower than before whenever tackling hiking re-entry into a prior setting.

At the end of the day, I had some blisters on my toes. A few days later, some unusual muscle soreness commenced. In all my historic Alaskan hiking, I do not remember getting sore on the inside of my thighs. While bouncing through the rock field likely contributed, the prior lack might be thanks to unrealized muscle maintenance. Back to the end of the day though. My hiking re-entry threw a few odd curveballs, but it lifted my spirits and touched my deeply. Taking the time to go back and visit those happy places truly beckons as an effort worth undertaking. For myself, I look very much forward to a whole summer of doing just that. I hope you plan to join as I revisit old frontiers and make new memories along the way.

Symphony Lake from Lookout Point

Other resources: 

*Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

-Get 55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska and read Hike 34 “South Fork of Eagle River” for even more info. 

50 Hikes in Alaska’s Chugach State Park (routes 14-18, 20) provides info on 6 routes accessed from the Hiland trail network.

-If you can find this map of Chugach State Park, then get it. It is awesome. Otherwise, this one by National Geographic should cover the routes mentioned in this article. The images on Amazon look pretty good. 

-Alaska Hike Search provides great info on hikes. Check out what they have to say about this one here.

-Learn more about the area from this Chugach State Park brochure.

We keep your data private and share your data only with third parties that make this service possible. See our Privacy Policy for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.