Resurrecting details from a long-ago family hike

While looking for something else, I recently came across a photo that instantly brought back many good memories. In the photo, my Dad, my three siblings and I are standing by the Resurrection Pass signpost during the last family hike I participated in.

In July 1972 we hiked the Resurrection Trail along with family friends Charles and Jimmie King. The trail was 36 or 38 miles long, depending on which sign post you believed. We started in Hope on a Friday evening and ended near Cooper Landing on Sunday at noon. We couldn’t dawdle because one of my sisters had to register for her music camp in Wasilla by Sunday evening. Mom didn’t hike, but went along for logistic support as well as to visit several friends in the area.

My family drove from Glennallen, while the Kings left from Anchorage after they got off work, and we all planned to meet in Hope around 6:30 p.m. The Kings were packed and ready to set off upon arrival. But our family had thrown all the needed gear and food into our vehicle and everything still had to be sorted and packed into the backpacks while we ate our picnic supper. After we changed our foot gear, Mom made us kids each drink a glass of milk before setting off and gave us each a small piece of paper on which she’d written a scripture verse. By this time, it was almost 8 p.m.

Jimmie had reserved cabins for our two nights on the trail, but with that late start, she was concerned that we wouldn’t have enough time to hike the seven miles to sleep in the first cabin. Sure enough, she was right. After a couple of hours and with no tents, the Kings spread a tarp between two downed logs and Dad tied a tarp among some trees under which only four sleeping bags fit, creating a rather primitive campsite. Saturday morning breakfast was cooked on a campfire. Each family brought what food they needed, but we shared some items, too, such as the popcorn Dad brought.

Although that first evening was misty and damp, we had good weather the rest of the weekend. Saturday and Sunday we enjoyed beautiful views of Juneau Lake and Juneau Falls and noticed a large pollinating spruce tree, the ruins of an old cabin and fresh bear tracks. We also encountered the usual sights of a beaver house, spruce grouse, marmot, and in the pass there were still patches of snow on the ground.

At the time, Dad was the oldest at 58, Charles 41, Jimmie 39 and we kids were 16, 15, 13 and 10. Dad carried his backpack, his 30.06 rifle for bear protection and at times my brother’s pack. This was in the days before backpacks became so sophisticated, and we were a ragtag looking group with more than one worthless pack. However, Jimmie’s boss had given her a brand new backpack and Dad and I were comfortable in army surplus pack boards.

We hiked 18 miles on Saturday and stayed at the Juneau Lake cabin that night. Sunday morning we chugged along the remaining miles at a fast clip, arriving at the trail end a few moments after noon. But, here is where things fell apart. Although Mom was scheduled to meet us in the parking area near Cooper Landing at noon, she didn’t think we could make that deadline.

As we hiked down the final hill, Charles, who was out in front, could see her green station wagon pull into the parking area. Not getting out of the car, Mom didn’t see us and pulled on through, driving away. Quite disappointed after all those miles, Charles set out south on the Sterling Highway to look for her and Dad set out north. Dad checked Gwin’s Lodge but didn’t find her until closer to Cooper Landing, walking even more miles.

The Resurrection Trail was a strenuous hike considering our time frame and we were tired and sore at the end. Despite the pick-up snafu, not having enough proper equipment, and some blistered feet from hiking too fast, we’d accomplished our goal. By the next summer I had married and left home, so that last family hike was especially meaningful for me.

Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer.

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Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan now residing in Palmer.

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