Yesterday I climbed my first ever mountain! The hiking trail up Dude Mountain in Ketchikan, Alaska is about 1.5 miles, but it changes altitude by 1500 ft. Add to that the constant mud due to the rainy climate up here in Ketchikan, and you get the disaster that was me trying to hike up this mountain in my very slippery sneakers! But hey, despite the Dude’s greatest attempts to bring me down, I did in fact make it to the top!
Side Note: If you’re planning to take the hike up Dude Mountain, make sure you’re wearing very good quality hiking boots or boots that can handle mud, pack lots of layers for the temperature drop at the top, and definitely bring a snack or two and lots of water. The drive from town is about 45 minutes, but it’s full of gorgeous views and goes by very quickly.
After the lovely drive up, the adventure had begun! For about the first 20-30 minutes of hiking, the entire path was covered with wooden planks made into a staircase, which made it somewhat easier, albeit a very consistent uphill climb.
After reaching the end of the wooden stairs, we found ourselves at the most difficult part: paths cut through the trees which were mostly composed of dirt and very wet mud. You would think that I would have put that together in my mind (dirt path + lots of rain = mud), but it really didn’t occur to me until the first time my shoe sank into the mud, seemingly never to return. Cue me comically falling every 5 minutes and covering the seat of my jeans with mud, not to mention my shoes and socks.
At last, after about 15 “I swear we’re almost there”s, we finally arrived at a beautiful portion of the trail surrounded by wildflowers, and finished out the last bit of climb. Once you reach the very top of the trail, there is another little area you can climb down to if you feel comfortable essentially sliding down a very steep hill covered in moss and rocks.
This trek was absolutely worth it though; I got to see some of the most incredible views of my life. I continuously said, “Thank God I’m not afraid of heights,” because standing by the edge, you knew that if you slipped even a little bit it would be a very long fall down before you stopped. But it’s hard to explain the feeling of pride you get after making it to the top of such a climb. As Barry Finlay put it, “Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing”. And we just kept climbing until we made it!
The journey down was much easier than the journey up, but it still had its challenges, not the least of which was my legs had turned to jelly. I also fell once very hard on my arms on a rock, which made my shoulders very sore for about a day, but thankfully no major injuries, just some very muddy clothes and shoes.
Overall, it was a beautiful day, a challenging hike, and wonderful company. If you love very challenging mountain hikes, Dude Mountain is a great one to try for some gorgeous, one-of-a-kind views.