Johnson Pass – Part 1: Logistics and Otherwise

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. – John Muir

This is the first in a multi-part post. Part 1 discusses the idea and some of the logistics leading up to a trek through Johnson Pass, Alaska. Part 2 covers day one of the trip. Part 3 covers the second and final day.

With a few short day-hikes under my belt, it was time to go after something a bit more ambitious; something that would push back a little bit. I was thinking about this, one night at my brother-in-law’s house, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek asked him when our schedules would coincide with a few days off together, so we could go backpacking. Moments later, we both had a weekend, set for two weeks later, blocked off in our calendars to backpack Johnson Pass – a 23-mile mountain pass through the Chugach National Forest in the Kenai Mountains.

20120622_090135I had never been on a real backpacking trip before, and thus had minimal supplies. I ordered a large, internal-frame backpack and a small, backpacking stove (both of which I became quite pleased with), and Terry had a nice, but small, 2-man tent. I began reading up what I could find about the trail and making lists of the things I thought I might need. I compared my lists with those you can readily find online, doing what I could to not realize my fear of forgetting something essential. My lists grew daily and I began amassing supplies; ignoring the common advice that less is more, when it comes to lugging things on your back for tens of miles. I ignored that advice, to my detriment, which I’ll discuss in part two.

I purchased important items, including: sunscreen, a mosquito head-net, 100% DEET insect repellant, a map, an emergency rain poncho, snacks, and the obligatory Mountain House dehydrated meals. I checked to make sure my water filter was in working condition. I purchased an amazing Kelty compression sack, which took my large sleeping bag and smooshed it down to something that fit in the sleeping bag compartment of my backpack with plenty of room to spare.

The night before the hike, I was up until about 1:00am packing my bag, making sure my camera battery was charged, and just existing in a state of anxiousness. Our plan was for Terry to pick me up sometime around 9am, pick up a few more odds and ends on our way out of town, and head for the mountains. Our wives and children would pick up the car we’d be leaving at the north trailhead, dropping it off at the south trailhead in Moose Pass, and then they would set out for some cabins we rented at Miller’s Landing, just south of Seward, to await our emergence from the wilderness.

Somehow, I managed to fall asleep around 2-o’clock in the morning, drifting into dreams of mountains and adventure…

Read more in Part 2.

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