Getting lit in the environment

Last weekend, Kevin Maier’s University of Alaska Southeast Literature and the Environment class hiked out to Camping Cove cabin to continue building on class discussions, and to take the talk into the Tongass. The trail starts at 35 mile on the Glacier Highway, on the coast of Point Bridget State Park.


The group worked through environmental issues in an attempt to help explain why humans interact with the natural world with acts of preservation or colonization. For some reason, the conversations always seemed to come back around to Henry David Thoreau and John Muir.

“Early in the morning, while all things are crisp with frost, men (and women) come with fishing reels and slender lunch, and let down their fine lines through the snowy field to take pickerel and perch,” Thoreau wrote. OK, so we didn’t fish.

I finally arranged my time early enough to pick up my doughnut holes and breakfast burrito. I stupidly left my half-eaten burrito on the roof of my car when we gathered to head to the trail. Major burrito foul. Good thing thing it was still there when we got back the next day. Saved me from having to get dinner. Yummy!

This was a great change of pace compared to ODS (Outdoor Studies) skills classes, where we are loaded down with gear and sweating all over the place, burning calories by the thousands. We brought three cook sets which consists of a portable stove, some fuel and a pot. We melted snow to boil pasta. Sitting on logs situated around a campfire, we focused our discussion about the readings assigned in class. There was lots of down time to soak in the sun and overthink our co-existence with nature.

If you’ve made this hike before, you know it’s a sweet mixture of terrain, with the trail weaving in and out of beach and old growth forest. As the path alternates three times from canopy cover to open shore, we enjoyed the variation compared to winter alpine climbing with white in every direction.

“Persue some path however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” — Thoreau

It was sunny all weekend.

At night, Kevin had told us that he had seen phosphorescent plankton in the water on the shore there before. I had never experienced that. For whatever reason when you agitate the water, it excites the plankton and causes them to light up. We thought of alternative methods for capturing this because my cheap-o camera wasn’t picking anything up. The little dust lights were not captured.

We brought way too much food as a group for one night. Four loafs of bread, many blocks of cheese and a few pounds of pasta between the eight of us.

As is common with outdoor adventures for some reason, we ended up going to bed super early. I think it was 8 p.m. when everyone claimed their bunk and got into their sleeping bags. We woke up leisurely and left in no hurry. It was sunny. There was nowhere else to be.

• California-born Alaska-bred, Gabe Donohoe has taken photos daily for the past five years. He is currently a student of the University of Alaska Southeast’s Outdoor Studies program. His photo archives can be seen on


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