Finding joy on mountain ridges
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Finding joy on mountain ridges

By Brook Brisson, senior staff attorney

When I was little, my mother asked my brother and I to go on a hike up Mount Abraham with her for Mother’s Day. Part way up the mountain, I planted myself on a rock on the side of the trail and absolutely refused to go any further. They summited; I stayed on that rock.

Brook and Josh in the mountains. Photo by Shaina Kilcoyne.

Glad I outgrew that stage!

The life I’ve built as an adult has been dictated by wanting to be in the mountains. Growing up in Vermont with the Green Mountains in the back yard was wonderful, but somehow not enough. We kept moving west and then north in search of bigger mountains and more solitude until we landed in Alaska.

The mountains here fit in a way that others just didn’t. These days, I’m happiest when ridge-walking with Josh; bonus if it’s sunny; double bonus if there are more dogs than humans.

Walking ridges with friends

Hiking pups; album dropped summer 2020. Photo by Stephanie Quinn-Davidson.

The first COVID summer, 2020, we spent a lot of time hiking with friends, mainly in the front range of the Chugach. There was a ridge that I’d been eyeing for a while — from Honey Bear to McHugh Peak and then back to Rabbit Lakes — not because it was particularly hard, long, or remote, but because it looked fun and would link two trails that we’d hiked often with a section that we hadn’t yet explored.

Our group was 10 humans and 6 pups, so close to my ideal ratio. We got a little bit of everything weather-wise: sun, rain, rainbows, wind, and clouds. We watched grizzly bears in McHugh Valley, cruised over the tundra in wide-open bowls, scrambled along rocks, and then dropped down to skip rocks and throw sticks for the dogs in the lake, before walking back to the car.

It was one of my favorite days that year because it was a full day outside on mountain ridges with friends and four-leggers. Those really are the best days.

Three questions about spending time in/with nature

Della, Brook, and Josh. Photo by Shaina Kilcoyne.

What do you think is the ideal amount of time for you to spend in/with nature?

That depends on the conditions (I’m not my best self when it’s 35 degrees, raining, and blowing, but I’m pretty sure no one is.)! But definitely more than less, and more than my life currently allows.

What does a meaningful experience in nature look like for you

It’s more what it feels like, and it can be a lot of things: joy, fatigue, apprehension, delight, courage, fear, wonder.

Describe one moment in nature/outdoors that left you with a sense of awe and connection

On a walk one morning with friends looking for birds, we saw a boreal chickadee leave its nest in the crook of a tree with a fecal sack from its babies. We collectively LOST OUR MINDS because: (1) we love boreal chickadees; and (2) it was cleaning up its nest after taking care of its babies! Don’t get me wrong, I love big dramatic views and long days outside, but the little moments sit me down just as quickly.

Brook is a senior staff attorney with Trustees. Her story is the tenth in a monthly series about how nature, getting outside, and being with land and water influences human health, resilience, connection, and purpose. Look for these stories in our monthly newsletters.

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