When we bundled our lifejackets and tossed them back into the landing craft, and waved goodbye to our driver, we knew we were in for an adventure. There was no trail before us, no evidence of any prior human presence, and we had no plan other than to explore. In three or four hours we would reemerge somewhere. We had no idea where.

The presumed adventure became more immediate when, as we began a shallow climb from the beach, a member of our intrepid troupe stepped into what appeared to be little more than a puddle, no more than a foot across, and found herself in black mud over her knee. We had not even lost sight of our landing and two people were wiping muck from their knee-high rubber boots. This was to be an adventure, indeed.

Following deer trails, we wound around a muskeg. Yellow pond lilies, false azaleas, and nameless white asters brought out cameras and smiles, and fresh bear tracks kept us ever vigilant.

When we ran out of bog and entered the woods, tangled, spiny devil’s club rerouted us, forcing us to climb over, duck under, or walk giant moss-draped logs like fat tightropes from one blueberry thicket to the next.

When we crossed a broad, rocky creek bed, we stopped to sit silently for a few minutes to listen to the forest, and to realize how small, how vulnerable, and how fortunate we were to be there.

Three-and-a-half exhausting hours later we emerged on another beach, and radioed for pickup. We all agreed that we had chosen the perfect way to spend our last full day in Alaska.