Berry Picking in the Tongass
Shawnee Reynoso, Sonoma State University
On the morning of June 30th the seven of us in trail party number three set out to hike to the Juneau Icefield. Little did I know this hike would be filled with laughs, challenges, empowering moments, and a sense of accomplishment. In our ten hour journey to camp we found ourselves pulled away from the trail by the lush wild blueberry bushes that ran alongside. Mo and Stan are the two members of our trail party that took advantage of these lush bushes. They even began to collect the blueberries in a water bottle to save for the next couple of days on the Icefield. These blueberry adventures added about an hour or two extra to our trip, but we knew with every accomplishment along the trail came the promise of more blueberries. From this point on our group quickly became known as BAA (Blueberry Addicts Anonymous).
This addiction became progressively pronounced as we trekked through the vertical swamp. The swamp appeared as we gained in elevation. It seemed the higher we went, the deeper it got. They continued to pick berries as I wrestled with trees in an attempt to free myself from the quicksand-like patches of mud. The swamp was unforgiving and allowed little room for error. With one overly confident step I found myself two feet into the mud. As I freed my foot I realized that only a sock remained where my shoe once was. In an attempt to regain my balance I stepped beside my stuck shoe and watched as the mud began to swallow my shoe. After a vicious tug of war with the mud my boot finally came out.
That night we slept about a two hour hike away from our final destination. As we made our journey up the snowy slopes the next morning I was robbed of my breath and overcome with emotion. As I trekked up this steep snowy mountain side I took a moment to take in the view. Snow topped mountains rising above a glacier, various waterfalls, and a lake. At the bottom of the mountain lay another lake, and beyond that green meadows with beautiful wildflowers and a river. As I looked up I saw the flag to our final destination atop the mountainside. Then I flashed back to every decision I had made leading up to this moment. Every TV show, every movie I had seen, every talk I had listened to, or inspiring person I had met and thought “Wow. I want to do that. Someday I will do that.” That moment was now. At this very moment I was that person in the movie or giving the talk that would inspire people to get out of their comfort zone and never stop striving to experience life, regardless of how out of reach those wants may seem. I am a reminder to myself and others to never deem experiences impossible but instead to hold onto them and never stop working towards them. Exhausted but not defeated I was proud. I had hiked over ten miles, gained 4600 feet in elevation, survived the vertical swamp, picked berries and exhausted every muscle in my body to get here. I was the person who could inspire others through my experience. I had made it. I was here, where I had told myself since I was a child I would be someday. I held back tears of joy as my heart skipped a beat. With the widest grin on my face I continued my traverse up the mountain. I had made it, we had made it, and it’s only the beginning.