Photo Story: A Micro Adventure in Alaska

I woke up to broad daylight at 9 am. To be fair, the sun had risen at around 5 am after setting at 10:37 the night before, so I wasn’t surprised at how bright it already was. It was May 13 and my first Alaskan summer. We were still over a month shy of the Solstice and I was already finding out how intense the daylight was.

I heard the cabin door creak open as my husband and dog trotted in with a steaming cup of coffee.

“The morning light is gorgeous,” Ben David said as he set the cup down next to me.

“Thanks, I guess I’ll get up and paint a bit.”

I stretched and pulled on my fleece overalls and down jacket, year-round staples in Alaska’s backcountry I was learning. Grabbing my little set of watercolors, I stepped outside the cabin. The view was stunning. The cabin faced Eklutna Lake, famous for its bright aqua water and snowcapped mountains. Eklutna Lake is everything you think of when you think of an Alaskan Lake, and its close proximity to Anchorage plus the wide, dirt road-turned-trail that wound around the bank leading almost all the way to the glacier which fed the lake, made it very accessible.

We had arrived at the cabin at 10:30, riding the three-mile trail in during a glorious sunset. Originally, we had planned to get on the trail earlier. But when we had woken up the morning before in our truck camper 1.5 hours from the nearest town on top of a mountain, the truck wouldn’t start. We spent most of the day working on it with the help of a friend’s truck, and by the time we got it running, it was fairly late. I slept while we drove to Eklutna, where we debated still going. But we had reserved the cabin months earlier and didn’t want to lose the money. So, we loaded up the bikes, put the collar on the dog, grabbed the bear spray, and hit the trail at 10 pm.

The trail to the cabin is short and well-groomed, making it an easy ride in. For an added bonus, it hugged the shore of the lake. The sunsets last over an hour here, and as we rode, we watched the progression of alpine colors from orange to pink to dark blue on the snowcapped mountains. Alaska is sort of crazy beautiful. We warmed the small cabin up with a quick fire in the woodstove, then passed out.

The lake looked even more beautiful the next morning in the full sunlight. The blue water practically glowed. I sat on the bank and painted the morning scene with my coffee. I had recently started taking my paints on adventures with me again and was determined to document each adventure over the summer.

The woods were quiet and peaceful when we packed our stuff back onto our bikes. Ben David carried the bulk of the cooking gear, and I carried my gear plus the dog’s sleeping bag I had made him from a thrift store sleeping bag. Our set up is pretty bare bones. Ben David is new to bikepacking and lacks bags, so we end up just strapping our gear in dry bags to his bike and then packing out my bags as much as we can. We rode a few more miles into the woods before turning around to head back to the truck, which, thankfully, started.

Eklutna Lake is a fantastic, short adventure. It’s by no means what one would think of as “backcountry”. It’s crowded in the summer and a 10-minute drive from cell service. But, living in Anchorage can eat at your soul if you don’t get out of it often, and the ease of trails and a cabin make short getaways that much easier.

Lately, I’d been thinking about adventure, and how we approach it. Some days it feels like a competition for who can do bigger or farther into the backcountry, or longer. It can feel like short adventures, like to the cabin at the lake, aren’t worth telling or showing. If you don’t forge a trail or use three compasses or come face to face with a grizzly it can feel like you didn’t really adventure.

But lately, I’ve been finding more and more importance in micro-adventures. My husband and I both work in the city, him full time and me on call. We love our jobs, but they leave less time for the big, multi-day adventures. Most weeks all we have are 2- or 3-day weekends to smash something into. So, we’ve been finding more and more how fulfilling micro-adventures can be. In the end we want adventures to be a way of life for us, and these short micro-adventures make that possible. We are after that peace of mind the wilderness and woods can bring, and strong believers that as long as you can find that, adventures are happening.

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