Marathon Mountain, Mount Marathon, whatever you want to call it personally I’d go with trail of death but I’m still feeling the burn in my calves so I’m a little biased here and not in the good way. A friend of mine told me about the waterfall halfway up and my brother and I decided to overachieve and do the whole damn mountain thinking if people run it in a marathon than we can hike it. And I’m not certain I’ve ever been more wrong about anything in my life. Zeus himself couldn’t run this thing, let alone Hercules it’s a straight shot up the mountain, all uphill. There are few, if any, gradual inclines most of the trail is spent at a sharp 90 degree angle and the further I went the more I regretted the stash of beers I had snuck into my backpack my water supply was dwindling and they certainly weren’t an adequate substitute.
If you speak with someone who was alive and living in Seward during the 1964 Anchorage earthquake, they’ll tell you about running up the mountain to escape the crashing waves that had overtaken the small oceanside town. About how the water from the Tsunami rushed all the way up to Moose Pass, a small village of sorts nearly thirty miles up the only road in and out of town. About how the fault line opened up a crack in the middle of Resurrection Bay. About how that fault line spread and, from their vantage points on Mount Marathon, watched the crack open and the water drain and they saw the bottom of a bay tucked in a deep fjord that can reach up to 1,000 feet in depth.
This mountain is the Tsunami Evacuation Route. It gets you to high ground in a matter of minutes, as long as you have the physical capacities for it. I certainly don’t although perhaps survival instincts would kick in and I’d get that second wind while watching the water rush up from the coastline but then again, Alaska is all about survival of the fittest the people living here have had many years to refine that skill. I haven’t. I packed a bottle opener in my backpack but not a jacket I figured that a long sleeve shirt would do the trick but cotton doesn’t repel the rains that pour forth from mountaintop clouds and it sure as hell doesn’t protect against the biting, glacial winds.
We struggled up the side of this mountain through an oddly humid habitat, reminiscent of a lush, green jungle. As we pushed higher and got past the tangle of trees our feet sunk into mud that was, at its best, ankle deep. For a mile my legs carried double the weight as my boots clung greedily to the swampy earth. We slipped up the trail and slid back down, fighting the slickness where the earth was smooth, and the sensations of quicksand where earth and water came together like a concoction of bubbling witch’s brew in varying shades of ashy gray and shit brown.
As we climbed, we moved past the mud and reached the shale and therefore the misty mountaintop and every time I looked back behind me the trail dropped off the side of the mountain and I was certain a gust of wind or an earthquake or some other terrifying act of God would remove me from the side of this mountain and of course, I’m terribly dramatic but I can’t help the fact that my mind is a series of worst scenario outcomes playing on repeat. But God was feeling merciful that day and we made it to the top, exhilarated, out of breath, and freezing cold. Someone had written the word B-E-E-R in large stone letters against the side of the mountain and so we took the advice of our profound author and popped the tops off of our own. We sat atop a glacial valley. There were rushing tributaries and small rivers carving out paths down the mountain beneath us. Rugged shrubs and vibrant greenery clung to the tundra beside which, at 3125 feet, the crystalline blue of sedimentary ice formed a perfect glacier. Below us was a landscape of climates and colors and there are no words to describe a level of awe this powerful. But perhaps that’s because these things aren’t meant to be explained—they are merely meant to be felt.
In short, anything worth doing is worth doing well and the best adventures always come from the moments in which you throw the plans and go for it, jacket or no. Friends, never climb just half the mountain. And stay clear of people who tell you to.