Exploring Alaska’s Wilderness With Samantha Harris

"Saying goodbye to my friend that day with both an incredible hike and a view I'll probably never see again for the rest of my life made this something I'll never forget" - Samantha Harris

Featuring: Samantha Harris aka. @thisalaskanwanderer

Samantha Harris was raised in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in Southcentral Alaska. As a child, she was introduced to the outdoor life by her dad whom she often went fishing or hiking with during her upbringing in Alaska.

I talked to Sam about her latest outdoor trip where she filmed melting glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana. I learned a touching story about her most memorable outdoor experience and also, we discussed her favorite piece of gear and a whole lot more. I enjoyed writing this piece and I'm pretty darn sure you'll enjoy Sam's amazing pics as well.

Let's get to it!

A little background on Sam
When asked about some of her hobbies that doesn't include outdoor activities, Sam answers that she's into films like most folks, but also likes to run and do vinyasa yoga. "Yoga is ideal for keeping all your muscles strong and your body aligned, which comes in handy when you're carrying a heavy backpack around the world. And your hips become super tight from running", she says.

As for her taste in music, "it really depends on the mood". Sam tells me she prefers classical for study and work. However, It's a different story when she's out and about: "When I run, I generally go for extremely upbeat and almost manic music.", she proclaims. When Sam feels like relaxing and grounding herself a bit, she enjoys folk music and bluegrass.

Hates doing them dishes, but don't like a lot of waste either.
Sams proposition towards trail food makes her favorite food one that doesn't make so much of mess. "I try to eat really high-protein foods that don't weigh a lot and require less preparation/cleaning. You know, REI and other prepared dry foods that just require boiled water... They are my main go-tos. I also really love the Rx bars because they're close to a meal in a bar and don't have any added preservatives.", she says.

Would take her hiking boots with her everywhere if she could.
After all, sometimes she might do exactly that. "I really love my Danner boots. They come everywhere with me and if I could wear them to work, I would (sometimes I do!). Haha. Also, I have a deep affection for my red flannel shirt. I bring that on pretty much every trip". And rightly so - the red flannel is in almost every picture in this article. Right on, Sam.

Sam's beloved Danner boots

What was the highlight of your latest trip?

Sam: "My last outdoor trip was to Montana while filming a climate change film with Justin Davey, a filmmaker--it was all pretty amazing, but Glacier National Park is really something. Given the glaciers will all be gone by approximately 2030 due to the effects of climate change, it was a privilege to see them and film them."

"We also hiked into a grizzly bear which was a great reminder of how wild nature is.", she says.

Capturing climate change

Sam in Glacier National Park

What is your most memorable outdoor experience of all time?

Sam: "My most memorable outdoor experience of all time is probably when I hiked one of the local mountains within the valley in which I grew up. It is a mountain my friend, who recently passed away, fought for to remain wild and without development. It's not at all the biggest or most impressive mountain in my valley, but it's located within my favorite Alaskan area, Hatcher Pass, and has always been included in one of the most beautiful scenes in Alaska overlooking the Little Susitna River".

..."I decided to hike the mountain the morning of my friend's memorial - it's only about 4,000 feet but extremely intense - without switchbacks and a million "fake summits" that tease you until you finally reach the top. I had no idea what was on the other side, but knew it looked north toward Denali and some impressive mountain ranges."

Denali and Hatcher Pass

Little Susitna River

View of Hatcher Pass from the local mountain Sam solo-ascended in the spirit of her friend who sadly, recently passed away. Her friend fought to protect the mountain from civil development and keeping it wild.

"I finally reached the top, alone, emotional and exhausted having no idea what to expect. Being on the top of a mountain already fills me with joy, but the view was pure eye candy. Denali was visible, which is an extremely rare sight, and the rest of the landscape was peppered with Alaskan mountains. Saying goodbye to my friend that day with both an incredible hike and a view I'll probably never see again for the rest of my life made this something I'll never forget.", Sam says as she finishes this incredible story.

And in those words - it's a wrap.

Follow Samantha on Instagram

A big THANK YOU to Samantha aka. @thisalaskanwanderer for contributing to the article with her compelling pictures and stories.

Want more stories like this?

Read other features in WildStray’s Outdoor Instagram Stories:

  1. Tommy Durso on summiting Mount Whitney, Jack London and overturning SUVs
  2. Karl Gustav on exploring caves, FlapJacks and standing on Europe’s tallest vertical rock face
  3. Caitlin Olson on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, deceiving water catches and the story of L.L. Cool Juniper

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Happy Trails, People. WildStray / Mikkel