The outside life--an ode to icy slopes and jampacked campgrounds
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The outside life–an ode to icy slopes and jampacked campgrounds

I’ve been incredibly lucky to call Alaska my home for over 11 years now. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to explore nature and spend days at a time in some truly wild places—like Gates of the Arctic and Katmai national parks–not seeing other people other than my adventure partners. In thinking back on some of these experiences, I’m reminded of how my love for outdoor spaces started in New York. 

Bridget’s outdoor life, skiing in New York with all manner of borrowed gear.

While the “how” I’m in the outdoors looks different in Alaska than in a big city, the way being outside makes me feel has stayed largely the same.

Family vacations, wee!

As a kid, we would take two weeklong family vacations every year: one camping trip and one skiing trip.

Camping trips looked like a campground a few hours outside the city, usually Pennsylvania or New Jersey, where everyone pulls their cars into tiny parking spaces nearly on top of each other. And sometimes there was even a swimming pool!

Skiing trips looked like trying to stay upright on an icy hill and not collide with hundreds of other people that were out for the day on their own questionable rental gear. I loved every. Single. Second.

Running amok outside all day long, getting dirty/lost/injured with my brother and cousins, these were the best times for me.  The feeling of freedom mixed with an inability to really control my surroundings and just having to roll with the weather, or ice conditions, felt, well, awesome.

Outdoor life in the city

A far cry from Central Park. Bridget, Joan Jett and friends at Knick Glacier, Alaska.

Fast forward 15 or so years, and I was living in Brooklyn and taking occasional weekend trips with friends to ski the same icy hills I’d grown up with, but with the added benefit of being old enough to enjoy après ski beers.

I’d bike to work every day through New York City’s greenbelts and cut through parks to see some trees and wild animals every day – because squirrels and pigeons count, too.

Having a limited income (or no income at all while in law school), most of my weekends involved sitting in Central Park or another park with friends reading, running, people watching, and just enjoying being outdoors and seeing others enjoy it, too. My favorite place in the whole city never really changed since childhood – Coney Island.

I think it’s easy to forget that New York is an island and that Brooklyn and Queens have sandy beaches you can stroll on, swim in, watch the waves roll in, and study for law school finals if you must. Plus, who wants Hawaii when you can have a Nathan’s hot dog and ride a rollercoaster before plunging into the ocean instead?

From dodging taxis to evading moose

When I decided to make a pretty hasty move to Alaska from New York after law school, many friends and loved ones were not especially shocked. I’d dragged them on hiking, skiing, camping and biking trips all over the northeast for years, so Alaska wasn’t the craziest choice I could have made.

Campgrounds look a lot different in Gates of the Arctic. Photo by Bridget.

And it’s been a great one, too. My bike rides look a lot different now – rather than dodging taxis on busy avenues, I’m keeping a lookout for moose on dirt trails and snowy paths. Instead of cruising on the icy, lift-served hills of update New York, I get to skin up to climb and do powder turns on the mostly peaceful mountains in the Chugach and Talkeetna mountains

Camping for me no longer includes crowds or outhouses, let alone swimming pools, unless you consider the occasional dip in a backcountry mountain lake a splash in a pool.

The differences and similarities in all these outdoor experiences reminds me that the outdoors exists everywhere. You just have to get out and into it. 


Three questions about spending time in/with nature

Bridget with Joan Jett skiing near Turnagain Pass, Alaska.

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

I love being outside as much as possible. I get outside every day for at least an hour, whether I’m feeling like it or not, thanks to my wildly energetic herding dog Joan Jett. The “ideal” amount of time really depends on the conditions.

What does a meaningful experience in nature look like for you

Any experience that focuses me more on where I am and the world around me. To me the best thing about nature is that it gets me out of my own head and to-do lists and just makes me feel like a small part of something bigger.

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

I find I’m most in awe and connected when I’m struggling or just a bit over my head. One fairly recent example was a hike outside Valdez on an unmaintained “trail” with one of my closest friends. Our plan was to access a public use cabin on foot while the rest of our crew wisely took a water taxi to reach the cabin.

From the hike from hell in Valdez. No humans in the photos, because crying. Photo by Bridget.

It took us about 13 hours of bushwhacking to move 10 miles, but the occasional glimpses of the ocean and mountains through the Devil’s Club was breathtaking, as was finally reaching our destination near the bottom of a small waterfall. It was just a good reminder of how wild nature can be when people aren’t leaving their mark. It was a humbling experience.


Bridget is a senior staff attorney with Trustees. Her story is the eighth 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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