How Saying ‘Challenge Accepted’ Got to these 3 Women Through Their Adventure in Alaska
By: Nicole Farn
This year’s #Girlsgoneintothewild trip – 53km and four nights on the Chilkoot Trail between Dyea, Alaska and Bennett Lake, BC, the first stretch of the original 1898 Klondike Gold Rush journey on the route to Dawson City, Yukon – was to us, as I’m sure it was to the original stampeders (although admittedly in much less of an i’ve-risked-everything-to-chase-gold kind of way), an exercise in defiance.
We defied the flood conditions and trail closure lifted just hours before our departure despite the sign positioned prominently in the trail office that continued to read WET AND VERY MUDDY in hot pink chalk letters (with an extra advisory to PACK EXTRA SOCKS in an only slightly less threatening shade of yellow). Challenge accepted.
We defied the man at the trailhead whose desire to discuss American politics went un-humoured and whose unsolicited commentary, raised eyebrows, and condescending tone practically dared us to carry more than the 32lbs he declared to be ‘appropriate for a woman.’ Challenge accepted.
We defied the woman at Camp 1 who sat across the picnic table from us and declared (as we each spooned the contents of our two-serving Backpacker’s Pantry rehydrated dinners into our pie-holes) that only 240-lb mountain men could/should eat an entire Backpacker’s Pantry rehydrated meal made for two. Challenge accepted.
We defied the gale force winds (not to mention the fog that robbed us of any chance of iconic views) on Day 3 that attempted to carry us away, filling our pack covers like sails as we crawled and clawed our way up the 45 degree boulder field, onto the summit, over the pass, and across the invisible border into Canada, and somewhat poetically, immediately across the first and only snowbank on the trail. Challenge accepted.
We defied the sideways rain and rapidly rising water crossings that implored us to turn around as we gave way to soggy socks, abandoned any attempts to use stepping stones, and proudly sloshed into camp oozing water from saturated woollies and ‘waterproof’ boots with every step. Challenge accepted.
We defied the will of our #Northfacefail tent that begged us to concede defeat and retreat as we floated our Thermarest in inches of water. Inches. Challenge accepted.
We defied (albeit unknowingly) the ‘groups-of-four only’ rule imposed mid-hike without our knowledge as a line of defence against bears in the area. The fresh blueberry-filled scat we encountered on the trail, however, did prompt the three of us to make the noise of at least four humans (and likely more!), even without the benefit of the official warning. Let’s get loud, you say? Challenge accepted.
Despite being defiant when faced with the judgment of the uninformed, the critiquers of our menu, the near-drowning in our tent and the threat of being bear bait, the Chilkoot Trail (a.k.a. the meanest 33 miles in history) also had us doing our fair share of complying. It’s true.
We respected the wrath of mother nature and warmed water for those on the edge of hypothermia.
We bowed to the sun gods when they finally made their appearance, and we watched the ability of their glorious rays to surreptitiously render amnesia to those who staunchly declared retirement from backpacking just one day, one summer storm, and one ‘never-again’ ago.
We gratefully accepted the beauty that we did see (despite the views and vistas we had been denied).
We obeyed the unwritten rules of the backcountry, and we embraced what became our trail family.
We had once again given in to the lure of the Great Outdoors. In all her glory. In all her fury. And without regret. We don’t always encounter Type 2 Fun on the #girlsgoneintothewild trip (proof), but when we do, it almost always borders on Type 3 (more proof)! Challenge accepted.