What is Bushwhacking?


Diana Sciambi, Expedition Guide, Safari Endeavour

I know what a bushwhack is supposed to be… a hike through the woods.

I understand the definition of bushwhacking, “A challenging, non-trail hike through (sometimes dense) foliage.”

This is how it is pitched. But in reality it isn’t like that at all. And I think that’s why it’s one of my favorite activities to lead.

Bushwhacking in Alaska

Let’s start out with the word “hike.” When most people think of a hike they envision walking on a trail, usually clearly defined, that leads you to some worthy destination.

This is not the case with a bushwhack.

Bushwhacking in Alaska

Really, no part of the preceding sentence is accurate. There is no trail, and I mean zero. Stare into the thickest part of the forest and head straight in is more likely. Also, you’re definitely not walking. Limber up before you leave because sometimes you have to perform a few interesting yoga moves to get over/under logs and through tight spaces.

Bushwhack through Alaskan forest

I would feel most comfortable characterizing some portions of a bushwhack as “swimming.” Often times the blueberry bushes are so thick, you are literally doing the freestyle through the underbrush. And your legs are certainly not getting off easy either.

Between the fallen down trees, the ravines, streams, rocks, holes, and the boot sucking mud, you’ll earn some much appreciated hot tube time before dinner.

Bushwhacking across a river in Alaska

Now how about the, “leads you to some worthy destination” part?

I’m pretty sure the whole point of going on a bushwhack is to get lost. Or at least this is what I tell my guests. Most likely us guides are not heading you towards anything in particular... Maybe a muskeg we know is in the vicinity or cabin ruins that are marked on our map.

But in all honesty, the only goal is to make it out of the forest with the same number you went in with, preferably somewhat close to where you told the skiff driver to pick you up.

Bushwhackers in Alaska

Bushwhacking embodies the, “it’s the journey, not the destination” principle whole-heartedly.

With the normal set of hiking constraints thrown out the window, bushwhackers are free to fully experience the forest. You really do feel like you are one with nature when you’re pulling twigs out of your hair and leaves out of your pants.

When you finally find your way out of the forest, you’ll appreciate your unorthodox hiking experience.

Alaskan forest

Two hours of ducking by branches, pulling your partner out of a mud hole and then going back for their boot, trying every type of berry in sight right off the bush, and pushing yourself further than you may have originally intended when you set out that morning is what makes the experience so memorable.

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