Outdoor Diary: What You Get to See If You Take a Crazy Risk Like Staying Up After Bedtime

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Humans Outside episode 238

What happens when you head outside way past your comfort zone into a risky area like staying up after bedtime? You might just see what Amy got to see in the early morning light on Resurrection Pass, Alaska during the Resurrection Pass 100 race. Amy recently presented a version of this story at Trail Tales in Anchorage and had such a good time doing so, she decided to share it here, too.

Some of the good stuff:

[:46] Invited to Trail Tales and it was oh so fun

[1:30] What this story is about

[1:40] The first thing you need to know

[2:02] The next thing you need to know

[2:22] An entirely different kind of risk I don’t like

[2:38] Why that made me try to run 100 miles, which is crazy

[3:00] Your Resurrection Pass briefing

[4:15] What I found thanks to the risk

[4:30] And so the run begins + snacks

[5:00] The thing we saw worth seeing

[6:10] Why it was worth the risk

[6:33] What I’ve been seeing recently

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

I was invited recently to tell a short, no more than 7 minute story as part of a local live storytime in Anchorage called Trail Tales. And since you know these Outdoor Diary episodes are about that length, this wasn’t a huge stretch for me. I had such fun at the event I thought I’d share the same story here as this week’s Outdoor Diary. As an aside, I was totally bowled over to meet a few podcast listeners at the Trail Tales event. I can’t even tell you how special and exciting it is running into listeners in the wild, if you will. You know I record this in a closet in my house. I have to use my imagination to believe anyone is hearing this at all. Thanks to everyone who said hi!

So. This is a story about what happens when you step outside your comfort zone and head out into the wilds of risk, such as staying up way past your bedtime.

The first thing you have to know about me is that I don’t do things at night. And by night I mean, anything that takes me out of my house after 7 p.m. is probably a no. For the people who heard this story at Trail Tales that might’ve been confusing, because it was well after 7 p.m. at the event, a solid hour away from my house. Yes, it was a major stretch for me. I am that old, at least in my mind.

The next thing you need to know is that I love my comfort zone and really dont like risk.. I prefer to go to the same restaurant each time we go out, and I almost always order the same thing — low risk. I take the same walks. I go on the same trail. Wandering outside my comfort zone seems risky, and I don’t like that.

But I also love adventures and exploring Alaska. That’s because not doing so is a different kind of risk that I’m also not OK with with – the risk that Ill never seen this beautiful place or experience its wilds.

Which is why last year I decided to take on the Resurrection Pass 100 mile race. I had been on trail just enough to know that it was a place worth seeing in its entirety. Now, you might be thinking– Amy you’re a nut roll. You know you can just backpack, it right? You could hike it over several days. Running 100 miles is entirely unnecessary. And to that I say: well, yeah, but I’m a runner. So.

A little bit about Ressurection Pass. Backpacker Magazine named it the top backpacking trail in the state, and I can’t argue with that. The trail goes from point to point starting in Hope or Cooper Landing. It’s 39 miles long. There’s a mid-point access trail down Devil’s Pass. The race goes from Hope to Cooper landing, back up towards Hope, down and up Devil’s Pass before proceeding all the way back to Hope. It gains about 10,000 feet in the process. And it’s unbelievably beautiful.

Now, this race starts at 3 p.m. which means no matter how it shakes out, it’s an overnight experience and remember what I said just a minute ago about not doing things that go past my bedtime. So this was a big stretch for me.. It was also a distance I had never before run on a trail I had never before done. It was my first time on a trail after dark. It was my first time ever in my whole life staying up all night. I know that sounds insane.

And because I like to do even risky things the safe way, I hired a coach to help me train for it and did everything I could to prepare. I practice eating snacks, because we all know snacks are the most important part of any adventure.

So I knew, loosely, what I was getting into when I crossed the start line at 3 p.m. on that sunny July day. I knew there would be miles, and hills and challenges. But what I found was more than that. It was realizing that if you never step outside your comfort zone and take risk, you’ll never see what I saw on the Resurrection Pass trail in the early morning light.

So at 3 p.m. on that race day we crossed the start line. My friends and I ran up from the Hope side, about 20 miles to the top of Resurrection Pass, then down over the alpine tundra. We hit the end of the glassy Juneau lake, about 8 miles from the other side of the trail, just as it was getting really dark, around midnight, then wound down to Cooper Landing, the trail’s other side, where we picked up more snacks before heading back up again towards Juneau Lake. The temperature dipped and we slowed down — not great for keeping a race pace up, but perfect for seeing what I witnessed next.

Because as we trekked across the area of the 2019 Swan Lake wildfire where the trees and terrain were black and burned out We saw fireweed, a wildflower that grows in burn out zones, was green, and pink and purple. And as the sun started to spread that alpenglow across the mountains hit the field of fireweed just so. And as the sun rose onto Juneau Lake, the clouds reflected against the water in that golden morning light. It was about 5 a.m. and I was in a spot I never wouldve visited and never, ever wouldve seen had I stayed home or done what I usually do at 5 a.m. on a trail, which is of course sleeping.

So you may know that I didnt actually finish the 100 that day. I ended up making it a total of 70 miles to the bottom of Devil’s Pass where I decided to call it after the wheels came off my mental bus sometime mid morning and my resolve unraveled and I cried in my van for awhile. And that’s a completely different story.

But I realized in those moments and in remembering them since that what I was seeing and experiencing on trail in that early morning light were things I never wouldve seen, never would have experienced had I stayed inside my comfort zone. I would not have seen the fireweed in that early morning light — a vision imprinted in my mind and filling my senses even right now. I would not have seen the 7 a.m. sun hitting the high alpine, or the clouds reflecting of the creeks.

I would’ve missed all these things by staying home and staying safe. And that tells me the danger of staying inside that comfort bubble and missing those things is risking actually living — and thats a much greater than the risk than tackling the unknown.

This week had a different risk calculation. I’m training for a road marathon right now, the Marine Corps Marathon, and so Ive been doing a lot of long road running to get me ready. But when a friend offered to do my long run with me and the day was sunny, I realized that if we don’t get out there and see the golden leaves that Alaska is so full of right now, they’d be gone. The road training will still be there when the leaves fall. But that trail we hit for 3 hours won’t look the way it looks now again until next year — the leaves incredibly yellow, the water on the lake so blue and the snow creeping down the painted mountains with this incredible contrast you have to see to believe. Yes, it’s real life.

You can see a photo from that run and so many other outdoor adventures on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. And I want to see your outdoor time too, of course. Tag me with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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