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I am very excited.  In a few months, I will embark on an amazing journey by train, bush plane, and backpack to photograph bears in Alaska.

I can’t believe I even considered possibly saying no.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Here’s the deal.  I don’t really do much wildlife photography.  Sure, I catch the occasional moose, but I haven’t really made the effort in the past to seek out wild animals.  And when things like bear spray and a portable protective electric fence are mentioned, I begin to get a bit nervous.  Add to that the fact that I’ve never been backpacking before (and this trek will require over 20 miles of it), and I’m feeling somewhat out of my element.

But the price is reasonable, and let’s face it – when will I have another opportunity like this?  As you know, I live by “no regrets,” so why the heck not?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Now, to the other side, I have always wanted to try out backpacking, and you know I’m an outdoorsy, adventurous type.  I just haven’t taken the dive and invested in the necessary equipment.  What better time than now?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

That being said, the others in our group are somewhat seasoned, some with this type of backwoods wildlife photography excursion, and most at least with extensive backpacking experience.  So where does that leave me?

Lots of training!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I am determined to not be the one holding everyone up, so I am doing whatever it takes to defy the incessant rain and get my butt into shape before this trip.  And that includes training hikes.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The weather finally broke briefly, and we were able to get out for a beautiful day on the trail, so we headed out to Coyote Wall in the Gorge.  And this was a six-mile hike 1200ft straight uphill, so figured it was the perfect time to throw my new honking bag on my back stuffed with weight.  28 pounds – mostly water and camera gear.  I even threw my sleeping back in there for good measure.  And I hit the trail!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017
Photo courtesy of Aaron Shade

Sure, I was the only one of our group ridiculously overpacked for a short day hike, but I sure took pride with the awed expressions and exclamations from my hiking buddies on how amazing I was to lug that thing up a steep hillside.  The bag is designed to feel weightless, so it really didn’t feel like much, and I’ve been long conditioned with schoolbooks and camera gear; 28 pounds is nothing!  Furthermore, I walk constantly – generally 3-5 miles a day – and I consider myself to be reasonably fit (I have to really try to get myself out of breath).  But despite my insisting I really didn’t have much in the bag, they still found reason to be impressed.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Granted.. that hill was kind of brutal.  And I certainly felt it in my thighs the next day.  But it honestly wasn’t that bad.  Just wait until I have all my backpacking gear!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I have a ways to go before I’m backpacking for real, but this was my first step.  My very first training hike.  A green little backpacker breaking her legs in across those beautiful green hills.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We’ll have some smaller backpacking treks before the big trip, so I’ll hopefully have adequate time to prepare.  But either way – mark my words! – I’ll be ready!  And it’ll be the trip of a lifetime!


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