I get it. I really do. You can’t fit a 14 mile hike into your schedule. You don’t know when your next day off is. When it does roll around, you want to relax. Fuck hiking the Traverse from Deer Mountain to Silvis Lake. It’s just not happening. I understand. That’s why I’m here to tell you what it looks like up there, what happens along the path, and how incredible your hike could be. After reading this, you won’t need to hike it. You’re condensing an 11 hour trek into a 10 minute article. You’re efficient. Awesome. Totally equal trade. You won’t regret it.
The Irish say, ‘Two friends shorten a road.’ I knew the Traverse would be 8 to 15 hours of having my ass kicked by a trail. The road needed to be shortened. Ryan (Ohio) was immediately down. My next text was to Wild Mary (West Virginia) and her ubermensch beau, Zack. (North Carolina) They were down but they had to make the Fish Pirate’s Daughter show at 7pm that night. That moved our start time from a comfortable 10am to a soul-rending 6am. I was willing to facilitate them going at any cost. I’ve never walked away from Wild Mary or Zack (or both) and felt like I was satisfied with the amount of time I had spent with them. Selfishly, I knew getting them on this hike would trap them with me for at least 11 hours. Jason (Ohio) responded that he had to work. Drunk Seth (Alaska) was all-in and told me Beefcake Jesse (Alaska, happy birthday buddy!) was planning on camping at Blue Lake and would be down for the Traverse. Zack brought his brother Timothy(North Carolina). Beefcake Jesse brought friends Myra (Alaska) and Sam(Washington). With nine of us, this road would feel like a 20 minute jog, right? We found out the old Irish proverb isn’t applicable to the big bad Traverse. It was still a beast.
We got dropped off, nine strong, at the southern end of Tongass highway. The first mile or so of the hike is a brushed gravel road. Following that road, we passed Silvis Lake and the uphill, heavily-wooded trail began. Not too far from there, you reach the top of the dam that keeps Upper Silvis Lake in check. Our adventuring party took a quick break for a Nature Valley bar and a bit of bug spray. Beefcake Jesse took a dip in the lake and got attacked by birds. This was the first time I had ever witnessed a bird attack a human.
One by one we continued the hike. Mountains from miles away saw us braving the Traverse. They peeked around every tree to watch the sweat drip from our brow. Zack pointed out a particular mountain that was covered with snow on only one side. He named it Pyramid Mountain. You’re not a man until you’ve named a mountain and had someone else call it that. The hike continued on, and Ryan handed me the backpack we were sharing. It was my turn to carry the burden of sustenance. From breaching the tree line to the top of Mount Mahoney was my personal, inner Ragnarok. Every step of the way was a battle. The heat was stifling, the sun was relentless, I cursed Ryan for how much he had packed. Our group had split up and I was alone. My wolfpack of nine was now a paltry one. Less than one. I was a shell of the man-boy I thought I was before. Reduced to a mere electrical current riding in a meat suit.
Against all odds, I reached the top of Mahoney. Zack, Timothy, and Drunk Seth were waiting at the top. They told me Wild Mary and Ryan had continued on to see the mountain goats. “There are mountain goats?!?” I threw off my pack and went as fast as I could towards the goats. So there I was, crawling up toward the mountain goats. Collapsing in a heap into Ryan when I reached him, he told me the goats were gone. I sulked back to where the rest of the group were taking a break and ate my butterscotch pudding pack in mental solitude. After that rejuvenating pudding pack, everything changed. At the top of Mount Mahoney, you’re surrounded by a 360 degree view of mountains, islands, inlets, and lakes. It’s the view you never want to stop seeing. It’s the type of view that a person begs to see just one more time in the twilight of their life. Luckily for you, reader, you don’t have to hike there to see it, you just have to read about it. Although, you missed out on our group mooning a floatplane.
The nine of us skywalked from peak to spine and spine to peak until we reached Blue Lake. There’s a part where we had to climb down a rope and then up a rope on the other side. There’s a part where we had to tiptoe across a precarious snow covered mountain face. I asked my trail companions to tell me a story of their people. Zack told me about his father’s pet Oxen, Wild Mary told me about her Melungeon ancestry. All the while, Pyramid Mountain and his ancient brethren watched as we put one foot in front of the other. Alaska’s postcard views surrounded us for almost three hours.
Finally, we reached Blue Lake. Home to the clearest and coldest water I’ve seen on the island. The sun was still beating down on us. Our clothes came off and we jumped into the lake. It took days to coax my balls out of my torso. We stayed there for about an hour, eating, swimming, resting, and at the end, saying our goodbyes to Myra, Sam, and Beefcake Jesse who were spending the night at the Blue Lake Cabin.
Timothy left early and got a forty minute headstart on the rest of the trail. He was half man, half machine. Ryan, Wild Mary, Zack, Drunk Seth, and I hurried to finish the last four miles from Blue Lake to Deer Mountain Trailhead. We filled our empty water bottles and camelbacks with snow along the trail. We finished the last of our granola bars, beef jerky, and my fourth and final butterscotch pudding pack. The descent down Deer Mountain was a blur of anticipation. I came, I saw, I conquered. I was ready for food, a shower, and a nap. We came to the parking lot at Deer Mountain Trailhead and bionic Timothy was waiting with the car. Or he was the car. Optimothy Prime drove us home. Like I said, the sun was beating down on us.
We were back at six pm. Zack and Wild Mary made it to the Fish Pirate’s Daughter on time. Eleven hours of hiking. Eleven. Hours. Of. Hiking. Those four words are a Mazda Miata smashed underfoot of the Godzilla that was my journey across the Traverse. I brought friends that I longed to know more about. I met Myra and Sam who were fantastic to talk to and hike and share butterscotch pudding with. I created a lifelong memory with my old friends Ryan, Drunk Seth, and Beefcake Jesse. The trip took all day, though. I mean, guys, seriously…its eleven hours of hiking. Just read this story instead of hiking the entire Traverse. It’s a 14 mile trail. You don’t have time for that. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Written by Joey Rovinsky