Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Monday, April 30, 2012

Running Through Alaska In Six-Inch Heels

I admit it; I can't walk in high heels.  They pinch my toes and make my hips hurt.  I avoid dressing up at all costs in order to avoid wearing a shoe that was originally designed by a man to make me look taller.  Unfortunately, I have passed this trait on to my teenaged daughter, Keely.  Recently, Keely was nominated for an "Oscar" award at her high school as part of the Spring Festival fun.  As a nominee, she was required to wear a formal gown.  We had just bought her first prom dress, and of course she refused to wear it before the prom, so I gently suggested to her that she find a dress to borrow.  A much, much taller friend loaned her last year's prom dress, a lovely gown that was elegant, simple, classy, and very, very long.

Having concern that she would step on the hem of her borrowed gown and rip it, Keely went to Target and bought these:

Wow!  My daughter is going to wear these?  The only type of women I know who can pull this off are women with attitude.  Keely tried the shoes on, and her attitude said "Where are my flip-flops?"  I then tried the shoes on, and my attitude shouted "I was raised by wolves!"  But then along comes my little Nina, my tiny 11 year old daughter with the skinny legs that make up three/fourths of her total height.  Nina tried on the heels, and her attitude screamed  "I am ALL that!" with the accompanying flip of long hair.

Walking down the hall like a top runway model, wearing her soccer uniform and shin guards, with her cleats carelessly thrown over her shoulder and heels on her feet, Nina stopped, gave a round-house kick, and declared "Take that, Terminator".  Not sure where she learned the kick or when she saw an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, I was, nonetheless, impressed.

This brought to mind my upcoming Alaska trip.  Yeah, my mind can make that leap.

Sometime before I turn 50, I intend to travel to Alaska for a month of camping and hiking.  The focus of my trip will be Denali National Park, six million acres of wild land bisected by one ribbon of road.  I recommend you read Denali's Research Administrator Lucy Tyrrell"s blog about walking all 92 miles of the road in sections, at  .  I plan to do that, as well as some off-road hiking.  In her blog, Lucy gives several accounts of seeing grizzly bears while on the bus to her starting point, but she never saw one while she was walking.  Which begs the question, if she saw one 10 minutes ago while safely riding the bus, what would she have done if she ran into the grizzly again while she walked?  She doesn't say, but it got me thinking.

I have done much research into this trip.  Should I go in the summer, when there is busy tourist activity but more park activities?  Or maybe Spring, when you can drive 30 miles down the road instead of Summer's 15 mile limit.  But the weather is iffy in Spring, and the tour buses aren't running to get you deeper into Denali.  Fall brings a Lottery, where a lucky few get to drive the whole 92 miles with few other people around.  Camping at any of the many campgrounds is open all three seasons, but not always accessible.  Weather is always unpredictable in Alaska.

I have researched my routes, my plan for hiking to different campgrounds, my options for camping in the tin can, and safe habits for campers.  I have studied the nature and habits of wildlife and read suggestions for staying safe.  I even spoke with a few guys I know who are big game hunters and have traveled in Alaska.  One of them gave me the following words of wisdom:

"Take a big gun and know how to use it.  If you see a Grizzly 15 feet away, he can be on you in 2 seconds flat.  If you think you can outrun him, try running through Alaska in 6-inch heels.  That's how effective you'll be in outrunning him."

As amusing as the image is of me running through Alaska in heels, his analogy brought some serious concerns to light.  What would I do if I encounter a Grizzly?  According to Lucy Tyrrell, sightings are common from the bus, but what about when you're walking in the wilds of Alaska?  I need to give thought to how I can get the most out of my experience while taking appropriate measures to stay safe.

In the next few years, don't expect to hear stories of me running through Alaska in 6-inch heels.  I am leaving Keely's shoes home.  I don't know about packing a gun, yet, but it is something to consider if I learn how to use it.  I do know that eventually I will tell you stories of endless days, and Northern Lights.  You will hear of wolf sightings, Grizzly meanderings, and countless songs of birds.  I may not be able to meet that Grizzly head on with a swift kick, the way Nina would, but I will have attitude.  My attitude will be one of awe and reverence and respect for the creatures who make Alaska their home and allow me to visit.

By the way, Keely won the Oscar for "Ray of Sunshine".  I am happy to report that she walked up to the stage with poise and grace, never once tripping on her borrowed gown.  I couldn't have been more proud.