That night temperatures continued to drop. We estimate it was well below -20 °F (28 °C). When I woke up in the snow beside the Trident Glacier, Austin had the stove going and Alex lay awake, headlamp on, staring at the ice crystals hanging overhead on the tent ceiling. I rolled over, my face wet and stiff, and an icy frost around the head of my sleeping bag shed into my eyes. It was super frosty. We packed camp and began our last, and much easier, hike out to the now snow-covered air strip. Just as we were about to feel the sun, after seven days in shade, we turned a corner to find an entire herd of moose blocking the way. Must have been more than fifty. It was a surreal dream. We stood together, with ice forming on our hoods from our breathing, and watched them run up the alder-covered hillsides and out of the way. With wood-block fingertips in stiff gloves, we made the final hike out under clear skies and Jesse came in just before noon with the supercub.
We flew out one by one. I went last. For forty-five minutes I was alone in the frozen tundra and the sun cast its rays on me. I ran in circles to stay warm and I watched moose stare strangely at me from the hillsides. I looked out at the high peaks and to the shadowed North Face of Mount Moffit. We all long to live in the now, to be present. And for that forty-five minutes I was as present as I’d ever been. My senses all in tune with the great power of Alaska. I thought of Alex and Austin, erupting into the Lodge with big smiles. They were grabbing a hot coffee and getting dry, taking a hot shower & putting on clean clothes. The thought of my friends rejoicing was so pleasing. My stiff wind-burned cheeks stretched with tension as I smiled. Alas, Jesse’s plane came buzzing over the moraine and a few minutes later I tucked in behind him for the ride out. My hands grew warm again, and now my spirit did too. Strangely, in retrospect, the experience of hiking out was more memorable than the route itself. We learned much more about ourselves on that final phase of the trip. With one last look at the Trident – I knew I’d be back come Spring. It was time to let the range winter over.