By The Happy Hikers
Three friends and I got together in 1992 and took a trip to New England. We toured historic Boston and hiked through the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. It was an invigorating and fun way to see the area. We all agreed we would like to do more hiking as we shared the same adventurous spirit. Each year thereafter, another trip was planned with mountain hiking at its core.
Through the twenty-seven years of hiking together we dubbed ourselves the Happy Hikers, assigned ourselves trail names, donned pink hats, and wore matching, colorful T-shirts, one color for each day of the week.
Early on, we began to take notes of our ventures and in 2015, we commenced writing chapters for a book. When the pandemic forced us to stay home we spent an hour a day for nine months, on conference calls, proofreading our chapters. In 2020, we published our book, Mountains Along Our Path.
During the many readings of our chapters, we all agreed that one of our most incredible, fun-filled hikes was to the top of the Harding Icefield led by Ranger Rea in 1995. We felt so safe and secure being guided by Ranger Rea as she was vastly knowledgeable about the area. She also found the way to our hearts by bringing homemade chocolate chip cookies to share. She told us this was her first inspection hike of the season.
Because Ranger Rea was such a big part of a wonderful hiking memory we wanted to send her a copy of our book. We did some research and found she still worked at the Kenai Fjords National Park. We sent her an email wondering if she would remember us after twenty-five years.
With five weeks of anticipating her reply, we received this message: “My apologies for the delayed response, I was away on furlough. I’ve just received your message and I am floored!!! Remember you? Could you know that you have been one of my lifetime work stories? I had never been on the trail before that day. I was a brand new ranger and my supervisor just told me I’d be the ranger hiking the trail with any group that arrived. I’ve told so many people about my first hike ever up the trail with a group of women from Florida. I baked chocolate chip cookies the night before and I believe I peppered you with them while guessing how far we were from the end of the trail.”
“How wonderful of you to be in touch and I would love a book. Don’t go to any trouble if that ship has sailed. Being in touch and knowing that you remember that trip is plenty for me.”
We were absolutely elated that she remembered us and that the hike up the Harding Icefield was as much a lifelong memory for Ranger Rea, as it was for us. We were astounded to discover that we were Ranger Rea’s first group to lead on a hike, and we never would have guessed that she hadn’t been on the trail before. It puts an extra glow in our hearts to be a part of that amazing adventure.
The following is an excerpt from, Mountains Along Our Path, with Ranger Rea and the Happy Hikers:
“Once on the Harding Icefield Trail, we walked through luscious green foliage and beside mountain streams. Many waterfalls greeted us as we meandered along. It didn’t take much time for the trail to become vertical. It climbs one thousand feet per mile for four miles. About halfway up we began trudging through snow. We were sinking up to our boot tops with each step. It was strenuous, but the view of the mountains surrounding us and the snow path ahead was so incredibly beautiful that our spirits soared.
The excitement of where we were and what we were doing just propelled us up the mountain. Near the top, we stopped for another break, and Ranger Rea again shared her bottomless bag of cookies. As we enjoyed the view, Betsy expressed it best, “A mountain and a cookie, what could be better?”
At the top of the ice field, Ranger Rea took pictures with Nancy, Betsy, and me perched on an outcropping of rocks. She said we were now “Nunataks,” a lonely peak. It is the term for mountain tops surrounded in ice. So Nunataks we became at the top of the Harding Icefield, surrounded by seven hundred square miles of ice, snow, and snowcapped mountains. It was glorious!”
The Happy Hikers