Jumping from rock to rock, splashing through the silty water and setting a fast pace, our hiking guide, Rowdy, could confidently navigate our path along Gunnysack Creek in the dark or blindfolded. He, I’m sure, has walked this diverse trail many times. Annie, our lodge host, left us with Rowdy on the sandy shores of the creek and told us Rowdy would show us how to safely navigate to where it would eventually open up into what resembled a mini Grand Canyon.
We hopped over boulders next to the water until it became necessary for us to take a side “trail” through patches of alders, devil’s club and spruce trees. Rowdy, not much for conversation, would stop and wait for us, knowing that our inexperience in the thick brush could ultimately get us lost. Many times on the trek I saw paths that appeared easier, but I always conceded to the route Rowdy would take. He would look back at some of the questionable areas as if to say, “Don’t be foolish, follow me,” and each time he proved to be right.
The landscape surrounding Gunnysack Creek reminded me of a small settlement in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah called Fruita. Grayish-yellow water spilled across large rocks of many different shapes and sizes. The cliffs were made of layered orangish rocks that could have come straight from an Arizona desert. Rowdy jumped in a deep hole of the creek to cool off as he has probably done many times before. The sun was warm, reflecting off the sand and rocks. A warm breeze followed the creek down from the upper section of the canyon. Paradise has many forms, and this was one of them. My idea of paradise is a place of freedom. It may involve palm trees or ski slopes, but ultimately it’s a place that can be felt in your soul. The scenic landscape of Gunnysack Creek, the warm air and cool water made us not want to leave. Anne, Rowdy and I freely explored and enjoyed this small part of the Alaska Range. Yes, we were in paradise.