It starts with my best friend suggesting we go on a hike to see an ice cave (actually it’s a tunnel through a glacier but everyone calls it a cave). I agree because, well ‘do all the things’ is kinda my life motto.
Look up hike online, realize that you haven’t really hiked in a long time and you are 54. Have doubts as to the wisdom of this.
Drive to small Yukon community with friend and another friend. The clouds are low and there is a light snow falling. On the way see wild elk and horses.
Drive by entry point and turn back. Entry point is a highway km marker and some orange tape tied to trees.
Bundle up in preparation. Be really glad you went to bathroom at gas station right before.
Walk through trees and then up a frozen steam bed feeling confident. The snow is granular and it’s like walking in sand and your right knee is complaining. Shush knee and keep going. The world is gray all around you and visibility is limited.
Friend of friend points to hazy mountain in the far distance and declares ‘the ice bridge is in a pass through there’.
|can you see that mountain? I had to squint|
Decide she must be joking and keep going.
Realize she’s not joking. And the mountain is looking just as far away as it did 20 minutes ago. At some point knee stopped bitching and has subisded into sullen silence. Decide it’s because you worked through the stiffness and not any other reason.
Mountain still far away.
Get overheated and stop to strip off layers. -13 has never felt so warm. Pack is now heavier but the
coolness is refreshing.
Briefly wonder if this is the leading cause of death for menopausal women in the North.
Mountain is closer but incline is steeper. Friend of friend (who's 20 years younger) assures you that it’s not far now. Look at her map on phone and feel like she’s overly optimistic or lying to keep you motivated. Decide that it's probably both.
|it's in the cleft in the middle (sort of. I think)|
Rest breaks are becoming more frequent. Contemplate quitting. Decide you can see cave in distance. Keep going.
The last km to cave is steep and the terrain is harder. Even more breaks. Body is telling you that it hates you and will never forgive this outrage.
Cave seems to be on wheels as it never gets any closer. Begin to feel like Sam accompanying Frodo to Mount Doom. Feel grateful that at least there won't be any giant spiders. Shit, did something just move? Realize that it's highly unlikely to be giant spiders or bears. Probably.
Decide you are going to cave so that you can tell it to go to hell. Wonder if you are overreacting. Decide you don’t fucking care.
|at last- I can see it but that last uphill was so painful|
Make it to cave. Take deep breaths while it dawns on you on majestic this is. You have hiked to a glacier.
Explore cave and take lots of photos. Rest for about 20 minutes while you chew on a frozen granola bar. Wish you had a dog sled to go back.
|the floor was littered with ice that has fallen from the ceiling.|
It was too treacherous to walk on
|I loved striations|
|I'm standing in the entrance and took this photo of Cynthia for scale,|
otherwise it can seem smaller than it really was.
Start the trek back. Realize how much easier it is to go downhill. Relatively.
Resolve to increase fitness when you go home.
On the trek down grayness clears revealing that you are surrounded by the most spectacular mountains. Breathe in the fresh, clean air and listen the silence. Stop to take many photos. Also put layers back on because -13 now feels cold.
|the light in the Yukon is just magical|
|walking away, the mountain seems majestic. Not daunting|
Keep walking wondering if you can find the orange markers to get back to car. Point out a tree that you saw on the way back.
Me: We're almost there. I remember that tree!'
Friend looks at all the trees surrounding us and then at you with a worried expression.
Assure her that you are okay.
See a snowmobile pull out from woods and wonder if they would pick up a hitchhiker. Best friend says 'I really hope they pulled out on the trail that takes us back to the car'.
Finally you see it. Fall into car and drive back to town. Go to local restaurant (only one open) and order large hamburger and fries. Devour meal with all the grace of a starving hyena.
Marvel at the scenery on the drive home. There are mountains in every direction as far as the eye can see. Doze off at some point. Fitbit cheerily chirps at you to ‘go for a stroll’. Tell it to fuck off.
Everything hurts. Back home pour glass of wine and have hot bath.
Hike to cave: 2.5 hours. Hike back 1.5.