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Armed with a can of bear spray, a compass, the necessary topographic maps, a couple of fishing rods, and plenty of ignorance, we shouldered our 60 lb loads and began our southbound journey to Twin Lakes with a steep alder-choked climb out of Telaquana Lake.

For the next 10-days we methodically made our way through snow, sleet, and freezing temps to upper Twin Lake, completely oblivious to the fact that we were marching through one of the coldest and snowiest Septembers ever recorded in Alaska; that Chris Mc Candless was lying dead in a bus a couple hundred miles away, and that Mt. Notwithstanding the daily hand-numbing misery of stuffing a wet & frozen tent into its stuff sack, we loved every minute of our expedition.

From winter ice climbing, skiing, and mountaineering expeditions to summer backpacking, rafting, and kayaking trips, I’ve been super fortunate to have safely experienced Alaska’s true essence.

Factors to consider should be based on type of backpacking trip you’re planning and could include elevation, tides, latitude, bugs, firn line on the glaciers, river levels, snowline, optimal fishing, vegetation, and average temperature and precipitation.Though they felt stiff and official, the unfolded brochures offered a distinct portrayal of Alaska’s great parks, and as I admired each photo and studied each narrative, I began to layer the pictures and text onto what had heretofore only been my Alaska imagination.The result was an Alaska inspiration, and I was suddenly rapt in the process of planning my first Alaska wilderness trip.Remember, most of the 15’ quads (Alaska’s most detailed maps) are more than 30 years old.In some cases, glaciers on a 1954 map are 300’ higher than present day, and “the big green” reaches higher into drainages and further up into the alpine; both due to climate change.

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