Gold Cord Lake is seen here on an overcast July 19, 2020 in Hatcher Pass, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Gold Cord Lake is seen here on an overcast July 19, 2020 in Hatcher Pass, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Out of the Office: Out of your bubble

People say that Alaska is their backyard, their playground — that they know this or that mountain like that back of their own hand.

In such a wonderfully and terrifyingly vast state, how well can we really say we know our own surroundings? Really, how many corners of Alaska’s wilderness will be left unexplored by the time our exploring days are over?

I’m as much a victim of this circumstance as anyone. Having lived in Alaska five years now, I’ve seen embarrassingly little of it beyond the Southcentral region. Besides the time and the means and the other everyday excuses, I must admit I find it hard to tear myself away from the mesmerizing views of Kachemak Bay. Siren-like in their allure, the Kenai Mountains meander back away from the bay’s shores, communing with glaciers, and keep me questioning their depths, heights and secrets.

Why venture elsewhere when the most scenic view in all Alaska is at my doorstep? It’s a common Alaska trope — the equivalent of that guy at the party who won’t stop one-upping everyone’s story, but with mountain peaks and Alaska pride. Homer has the best coastal mountain views, period, unless you’re talking to someone from the Southeast. Their landscapes can’t be beat, unless Seward is in on the conversation. Have you seen Resurrection Bay? The Mat-Su Valley resident will make an attempt to say something about Hatcher Pass, but will be drowned out by someone who lives close to Denali. Anchorage representatives will be sitting in the corner, knowing no one will take them seriously, even though the many hikes within a close distance of the city offer views as worthy as any.

What do we risk losing, though, if we value our backyard above all? What ascents could be taking our breath away, what ocean tides at sunset could be bringing a tear to our eye and what forest trails could be unearthing a new sense of wonder, if only we were to seek them out?

I’m glad to say I made a little headway in getting out of my own little wilderness bubble this season. We may be best advised to remain in our limited social bubbles right now, but one of the greatest things about Alaska is that it lets us cast that cooped up-ness aside for an afternoon or a weekend to get outdoors.

This season I did not hike a single trail I have hiked previously, save for the first section of the Resurrection Pass Trail on the way to Juneau Lake and the trusty (if ever eroding) Diamond Creek Trail right here in Homer. Every weekend, every trip with friends, every camping endeavor brought some new challenge and taught me something new about myself.

Across Kachemak Bay climbing Grace Ridge for the first time, I learned I do not like climbing very steep things, but that I can do it if far-away views of bears and a stellar Instagram post opportunity are in the cards.

Scrambling up Gold Cord Lake Trail and April Bowl in Hatcher Pass, I learned the comparatively “urban” valley has an intoxicating playground of mountaintops literally right at its fingertips. What this Homerite would give to be able to drive right into the Kenai Mountain range rather than catch a water taxi.

Trudging along a picturesque ridge at sunset and camping in the rain at Lost Lake in Seward, I learned true friends are the ones you want to have with you when it’s raining on your camping trip and when the trail doesn’t end when you think it should. Bonus lesson: Wild blueberries are life and always worth stopping for.

I got out of my bubble this summer, but not nearly enough. My running list of desired trails, peaks and public use cabins grows longer by the week. I could say it’s a good thing I have many more years of exploring ahead of me — but then again none of us truly know that, do we? I’ll endeavor to make a dent in the list, at least.

For now, though, I’ll cozy up to Homer’s Autumn hills. I’ll watch the termination dust settle on Grace Ridge and Poot Peak and Sadie Knob, and revel just a little bit in my own backyard until it’s time to venture out again.

Out of the Office is an outdoors and lifestyle column written by staff at the Homer News and Peninsula Clarion. Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

The author hikes up a ridge on the way to Lost Lake on Aug. 28, 2020 near Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Lauren Jerew)

The author hikes up a ridge on the way to Lost Lake on Aug. 28, 2020 near Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Lauren Jerew)

The climb up April Bowl provides expansive views, seen here Aug. 3, 2020 in Hatcher Pass, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

The climb up April Bowl provides expansive views, seen here Aug. 3, 2020 in Hatcher Pass, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

The author surveys part of Kachemak Bay State Park from the top of Grace Ridge on July 23, 2020 across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Lauren Jerew)

The author surveys part of Kachemak Bay State Park from the top of Grace Ridge on July 23, 2020 across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Lauren Jerew)

More in Sports

A long, white strip of soft, white feathers running down the back gives the downy woodpecker its name. (Photo by Colin Canterbury/USFWS.
Refuge Notebook: The smallest woodpecker

On a recent sortie looking for grouse in the spruce forest of… Continue reading

Alaska State Parks logo. (Image courtesy Alaska State Parks)
Kachemak Bay State Park trails report

Remember to be bear aware

A section of the Diamond Creek beach has built up, with plants growing where 10 years ago there had been bare mud, as seen here on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Out of the Office: Annual CoastWalk beach trek reveals changes, transformation

Volunteers in annual Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies program clean up, monitor beaches

Alaska State Parks logo. (Image courtesy Alaska State Parks)
Kachemak Bay State Park trails report

Remember to be bear aware

Seamus McDonough competes in the boys' Division II state cross country meet Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Catriona Reynolds)
Sports in brief

Upcoming events Football: The playoff football game scheduled at Redington Jr./Sr. High… Continue reading

Photo provided by Kenai National Wildlife RefugeAndrew Berg outside his ҈omesteadӠcabin, which stood originally on Tustumena Lake and now stands at the headquarters of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Refuge Notebook: If these walls could talk

Big game guide Berg led remarkable life

A row of footballs iat the Homer-Seward game at Homer, Alaska, on Aug. 29, 2020. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Fall sports playoffs, state championships canceled

ASAA wants schools to stay in geographic regions

Homer's Gracie Gummer and Kenai's Erin Koziczkowski meet across the net during a Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 volleyball game in the Alice Witte Gymnasium in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Kenai netters defeat Homer

The Homer volleyball team fell to the visiting Kardinals on Tuesday night… Continue reading

Most Read