Take a Chance, Veer off the Paved Path in Coastal Alaska

I just got back from Alaska this weekend. One of my favorite parts of the trip was visiting Mendenhall Glacier. Pictures cannot do glaciers justice. Their grandness is truly incredible. They fill valleys between mountains like rainfall fills cracks in sidewalks.

When I arrived at the glacier park, there was a paved trail that went from the visitors center closer to the glacier and a waterfall. Normally I avoid these types of trails if possible; I like to feel the ruggedness of Earth beneath my feet and avoid the crowds. However, it was rainy season up in the North and parts of the cement path were flooded almost six inches deep, so I’m glad I didn’t have to walk completely in mud on this small hike.

There was never a point on this two mile trail that I could look in front or behind where I was walking and not see tourists. This was frustrating, I definitely saw more people than wildlife.

But as I was meandering along the paved path, something caught the corner of my eye. I saw a makeshift rock bench on a nearly-hidden trail, perpendicular to the one I was on. Oh what a nice rock, I wish it wasn’t raining so I could sit and relax for a little bit,” I thought to myself as I walked by… *Pullllll* says the inner sensation. I stutter step before I change directions and commit to walking off the comfortable path.

It’s funny how life rewards you for stepping out of your comfort zone.

This wasn’t just a rest stop, this was a new trail all on its own. I got exactly what I needed. I did not take ten steps before I felt like I was in a completely different habitat. And in truth, I kind of was in a different ecosystem. In ecology, there is something called the edge effect. Basically, certain plants and living organisms are more abundant at the intersection between foliage and meadows, or in my case, forest and sidewalk. I’ll explain the relevance of this soon.

The scenery I saw as I was walking down the paved path was not an honest representation of the majority of the forest that was just a couple of meters behind it. What an illusion!

It went from small shrub-lined concrete to pure rainforest. A place where there is so much rain, the plants, lichen, mosses, and fungi don’t even know what to do with themselves after completely colonizing the trunks and branches of everything in sight.

From this short detour, I gained some HUGE insights…

You truly cannot perceive what lays beyond your personal edge until you take those initial steps. This isn’t only applicable in national parks. What happens when you walk a new way to class, drive a new way to work, try a new type of sandwich or smile at the stranger behind you in the grocery store check out line?

You expand your horizons,
you gain experiential knowledge,
you gain wisdom.

Just because you cannot see the path ahead, it does not mean that it does not exist! All we can do at any moment is to take baby steps. Sometimes this steps aren’t glamorous like how we idealize the future to be. For example, when I was still at school I would spend hours per week looking for international jobs in my field. Yet, this was almost a waste of time. Why? I had to actually finish school, my classes, and my assignments before moving away ever could become a reality. Now that I have taken the initiative (and patience…lots of patience) to finish the forefront tasks, I can move on to bigger projects. Not only this, but more opportunities have presented themselves to me.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our journey through life is like sailing a boat. We keep our destination in mind and point our vessel in that direction. It takes time to make progress. A storm may come along and knock us around off course, but we always have the choice to return back to where we originally wanted to go or maybe a change in direction is what we needed all along. Keep on sailin’!

 

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