It’s rare to find an Anchorage resident who hasn’t climbed Flattop, a 3,500 foot peak in the Chugach Mountains. Today we decided it was high time the kids ascended it too.
It had been years since Clark or I had scaled the peak. So many years, in fact, that we couldn’t even remember how to get to the trail head. As we pulled up the directions on Clark’s iPhone, we realized that the last time we climbed Flattop we didn’t even have a cell phone, let alone an iPhone! We also did not have wedding bands or children. It was just the two of us and our young pups, Bailey and Kodi.
Today we encountered a young couple who reminded us of that time in our lives. They had rambunctious Labradors, and took breaks at similar spots along the way. Whenever we passed them, their presence shook me back to a former life I had almost forgotten. I now held the hand of a six-year-old child instead of a nylon green dog leash, but I still vividly remember the days when our two dogs were our only hiking companions. Now we only have one dog, and the poor girl’s legs are no longer able to climb this mountain. She was back home, sleeping on her pet bed in the garage.
Towards the top I was thinking I should have stayed back with Kodi. I vaguely remembered the rock climbing portions at the top, but not vividly enough to see them through the eyes of a child. Or a mother. After nearly two hours of hiking, with the apex in sight, Sam dug in his heels and let out his tears as he declared, “I’M DONE! I’M NOT GOING ANY MORE!” Yes, the wind was howling. Yes, he is afraid of heights. However, at this point the descent looked more terrifying than the now visible climb to the top. Sam was not convinced. He simply refused to move.
What to do? Clark scaled the final feet to the top with Maggie. She was like a mountain goat, trusting both her own footing and the gentle guidance of her Super Dad. Clark helped her to the top, perched her on a rock, and returned to rescue Sam. I scampered ahead to be with Maggie, wondering if there was any way Clark could convince Sam to move. I was ecstatic when I saw them ascend together a few minutes later. We had made it!
The wind was, as always, howling at the top. But we hunkered in for a snack and took in the scenery. The descent was ahead, and no one was looking forward to it.
Once we started down, it must have taken an hour to get back to the saddle. At one point I found myself in a vertical wind tunnel, precariously grasping a rock with one hand and Sam with the other. He was crying and too scared to move, and my eyes were blinded with blowing dust. Once again, Clark perched Maggie on a rock below and came back to our rescue.
We took it slow, steady, and seated for the rest of the rocky area. In my youth I didn’t understand how people became stranded on Flattop, but now I do. I’m not sure whether it’s age or parenthood, but I have a much healthier sense of fear these days!
I was so proud of both our kids today: Sam for conquering his fears, and Maggie for morphing into a mountain goat. And I’m especially grateful for my husband, who made sure they both made it both up and down safely!
Here is the photo version of our hike, but no photos of those steepest, scary moments!
Now that I look at these photos and know we are all home safely, it seems worth it. But there are plenty of trails in this city, and it will be a while before we venture up this one again!