Rick Steves Learns To Be Prepared…The Hard Way

If you know anything about my partner Rick, you know that he works tirelessly and passionately to teach people about traveling in Europe.  He is one of the few people I know who, after working a 16-hour day (as he is prone to do when researching and updating his guidebooks or filming his TV show in Europe), is actually invigorated, not exhausted.  But even someone who loves his work needs a break once in awhile.

So when we decide to go on vacation (even if it involves traveling), it gives us a chance to do something that not work-related.   This Alaska trip has been the perfect fit for that.   There isn’t a museum, a church, a castle, a must-see monument, or endless lines of tourists for miles and miles and miles.  And we love it that way.  But what we have been fortunate to see are breaching whales, colossal glaciers, a bear who is an expert fisherman, and many other examples of Alaskan flora and fauna.

One of our land trek days included an arduous hike through a thick, gnarled root, and twisted path forest.

Nature revealed her age with her denseness, the intertwining symbiosis of her varied plant life, and the stature of her trees, whose multitude of limbs reached out across to one another to protect their forest companions below.

Her power was made evident by the raucous tumbling of a white water river that carved its way through the woodland, plummeted over a waterfall, and rushed to unite with the waters of the bay.

Rick and I enjoying the powerful rush, the raucous sounds, and the wispy mist of the thundering waterfall.
New life emerges in a primal forest.

And the beauty of her hopeful spirit sprouted all around us as colorful fungi, spores, and buds whispered their way into the dappled light of the lush forest floor.

As this area was maintained by the National Forest Service, large planks and chopped trunks provided stable steps over steep terrain and were an effort to protect as much of the forest as possible.  For the raw portions of the trail, we were thankful that our walking sticks and rubber rain boots helped us maintain stability and avoid soaking our clothes in mud.

Our guide Connor shows us how easy it is to be one with nature.

Despite—or perhaps because of—the arduousness of this hike, we were emboldened to truly engage ourselves with the luscious surroundings and feel one with nature.

Our experience was a bit different on our less strenuous hike through a new growth forest.  For this easier hike, our guide Connor had forewarned us that our rubber boots would be a good idea.  They were, as I mentioned, fantastic for our arduous hike, so I was happily geared up in my Hunters.  Our fellow hikers sported their rubber boots, too.  Rick, on the other hand, was eager to use his regular hiking boots on this regular hiking trail.   So he traded out his rubber boots for his hiking boots and left the rubber ones by the start of the trail for safekeeping.

Um, do you think you might need those later?
Hanging out at the back of the group so we could linger and take our photos.

Because of logging, weather damage, and erosion, this second area we explored had shorter trees and more exposed spaces.  The terrain was almost completely flat, and the former logging trails allowed us to move briskly and in an orderly fashion.  The unexpected consequence of that was that we felt like we had to hurry along and that we didn’t have ample opportunity to stop and smell the proverbial roses.  Nonetheless, it was easy to find striking beauty no matter where you looked.  Rick and I took frequent advantage of being the caboose of our group so we could document our stumbled upon natural treasures on our cameras.

Rain gear and rubber boots are your best friends when you hike through this forest.

The other unexpected consequence was that because this new growth forest was so exposed and was populated with younger, less hearty and less vigorous plant life, water tended to pool up and was not easily absorbed by the fledgling plants.  And so when we came across a two-feet deep, pond-like puddle in the middle of our path, we had no choice but to wade through.  Thankfully, we were all prepared with our just-to-the-knee high rubber boots.  All of us, except Rick.

I tried to help him find a way around it: rocks to step on, less shallow areas, or something—but to no avail.  Even the muddy edges of the waterlogged trail were so deep that he would have been up to his shins in muck and goop.

My “man-sel” in distress being piggybacked by our trusty guide Connor.

Enter Connor.  Being the fine, strapping young man that he is, Connor came back across the pond, hoisted Rick onto his back, and handily carried his damsel (or should I say, man-sel) in distress across the murky waters.  The look on everyone’s faces was priceless.  I was laughing so hard, my abs started to cramp up.  My man, the travel guru, had just been carried piggyback across a pond so his shoes wouldn’t get wet.  Seriously?

And the killer of it all is that this happened not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times!  Two ponds:  two piggybacks one way, and two piggybacks the other way.

Check out one of these piggybacks for yourself.

It just goes to show you, when you choose to try adventure travel, be prepared.  Have the right gear or…bring someone who will give you a piggyback ride.

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