Hiking the Butte

We’ve been having what feels like unseasonably warm weather here in Alaska. It’s late March, almost all of our snow has melted, and we’ve had abundant sunshine and high temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s for at least two weeks. I’ve been enjoying getting out and enjoying this warmer weather, with Baby A in tow of course. He loves being outside and is quite inquisitive and observant.

After hearing of several friends of ours hiking the Butte already, I thought it must be manageable enough to try again. The Butte is a small mountain located near Palmer. The last time I tried it I was about two months pregnant and just didn’t have it in me to make it to the top. I made it to the plateau before the rock climbing part to the top. J has made it to the top twice; once on the trip where I hung out on the plateau and once with his sister and our nieces. Since I’ve been working out five days a week for two months, I thought the chances of my making it to the top without huffing and puffing enough to blow some poor pig’s house down were pretty good. Oh dear, I just made myself the big bad wolf. Bad analogy.

One of my goals before we moved was to make it to the top. We’ve always gone up the Reindeer Farm side, with a hiker-created trail that sometimes is hard to identify. I thought we’d try the West Butte trail, a newer and borough maintained trail that includes stairs (the stairs led me to believe rock climbing wouldn’t be involved).

So we set out with our Mei Tei baby carrier, baby A, and my goal. When we go the Butte, the parking lot was super muddy. I should have recognized this as foreshadowing, but I didn’t. We set out towards the trail, after meandering down a misleading path, and came upon…snow. Apparently snow is only scarce in our neck of the woods. Since I thought we would be on dirt paths, I’d worn tennis shoes. My cutesy red tennis shoes are great for walks around parks, neighborhoods, and dirt paths. Not so much on snow, ice or mud–all three of which we encountered.

The West Butte trail is supposed to be a gentler ascent into the elevation. They achieve this by lots of hills; there’s a lot of up and down. Then you reach the stairs, and you’re excited; stairs! Simple! Not so fast. Those steps make you lift your feet higher. So now your calves are exhausted from the up and down of the hills, and within the first staircase your legs are shaking. Well, mine were. Apparently my legs workout isn’t strenuous enough. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to stop and take photos (and discreetly catch your breath so that the kids running past you don’t think you’re dying and call 911.

Once we hit the steps, I untied the baby carrier and A rode on J’s shoulders up the stairs, while I kept a lookout for low-hanging branches that might clothesline A. Thankfully we’d switched who was carrying the baby, because this part of the trail is where the treachery increased. The mud was slick, topped with a thin sheet of ice, and the handrails/rope was only on one side. Then we get to the first rock climbing part. My husband is amazing. He climbed up the rocks while holding A. The stairs got steeper, the mud got slicker. I thought we’d reached the top when I saw more rock climbing ahead of us, with a dozen hiker-made trails branching off in a variety of steep paths. My amazing hubby managed to carry the baby up this part, too.

Then–we reached the top! It was over! And the view–oh, man, the view. Just amazing. There’s an outcropping of rock, and many hikers had signed it or put their mark on it. Among those signatures was an FSU sign with an arrow under it– our alma matter! We aren’t the only Seminoles to climb the Butte! That was pretty awesome, and then I captured this image:

This is now one of my favorite photos of A. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful husband and sweet kiddo that I got to do this with.

Once A discovered the edge and ran towards it, we knew our time up top was limited. So we reluctantly headed down, knowing it could be just as bad as it was coming up. Don’t get me wrong– it was a blast. But it wasn’t easy (whoever referred to this as an easy hike on TripAdvisor should be banned).

So going down, A started out on J’s shoulders. We made it back down the steep paths, back down the rock climbing parts one and two, and across the mud. There was much slippage and fear, but no falling or dying. There were LOTS of prayers going down! Once we got past the stairs, for which that handrail and rope rail were very helpful, A started crying. Since he can walk and run, he isn’t such a fan of being confined to being carried for so long. We put him back in the Mei Tei carrier and set off. He was still crying, so I put on his favorite playlist, which happens to mainly be comprised of songs from Frozen. God gave me an extra burst of energy with which to bounce across the hilly snow-and-ice part, and guided my feet so I didn’t slip. I may have sang such hits as “Let it Go” (complete with hand motions), “For the first time in Forever”, and most appropriately, “Do you want to build a snowman?”. Climbing a mountain was the best possible setting for my rendition of those songs, and it made A stop crying and enjoy the ride down, so it was a win-win (unless other people heard me…in which, it wasn’t such a win for them!).

We had such fun. With the house being on the market and applying to out of state jobs so we can move, we’ve been pretty stressed. Although our to-do list was plenty long, we threw it out the window to have an afternoon of family fun. And now we get to dangle the fact that we carried A up and down a mountain over his head for life. It was totally worth it.

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