Monday and Tuesday of this week were probably the 2 most beautiful days of my life. I say this not because I met beautiful people, or had some movie-worthy emotional experience, but because I went backpacking.
Since I do not have a job yet (though I turned in my application to the janitorial supply place, and picked up 2 today, 1 from an office supply warehouse and one from the boys and girls club of Alaska) I had the opportunuty to go backpacking with Ryan Tans and Eric Tans. (I am staying with them all summer) We decided to do a hike called “Crow Pass” I dont know the area very well at all but I was up for anything. Ryan suggested we do the hike over 3 days and 2 nights but I decided that I wanted to do it in 2 days and 1 night because i need to persist in the job search. so it was set, we were going backpacking, my first backpacking trip in Alaska, the land of the midnight sun!
I woke up on monday morning at 7:00am I was planning on calling my mom that morning but i forgot she was in michigan until Tuesday, so I decided to sleep in an extra 20 minutes. We packed up our backpacks the night before and I was up until about 2:00 so waking up was a bit difficult. I grabbed a big muffin out of the freezer and we were off to a friends house to pick up a tent to borrow, we left the house at 8:00. we picked up the tent and drove down the Turnagain arm of the Cook inlet. Along the road I saw a bald eagle perched in a tree. The drive was about an hour long, so we got to the trailhead at about 9:30.
We signed in at the sign-in book and started our ascent into the mountains. The beginning of the hike was somewhat dissapointing because the trail was steep and buggy, and in direct view of a mine with trucks and machinery roaring in the distance.
The hike went on, and for some time was uneventful, there were wildflowers every once in a while but nothing too fantastic. We rounded a bend and saw a big green valley with snow covered peaks rising above on either end. the trail consisted of mostly fist-sized rocks that had slid down the mountain, it was difficult to walk on. I had packed for cold weather but by the time i had hiked up the side of the mountain I had taken off my thermal and was just wearing a t-shirt. We were past the tree line so the only vegetation on the path was tundra and small bushes. We hiked over patches of snow that covered the trail for about a hundred feet and then kept hiking up the side of the mountain further into the valley. We saw old rusted mining equipment and some people that had camped there the night before.
*2.5 miles out of 26. Here is a picture of the mining equipment we found*
The trail continued following the river and led up to a big waterfall. We hiked up to the waterfall and followed the trail as it wound it’s way to the wall of the waterfall. Water crashed down next to us as we hiked on the small trail. We then had to climb the waterfall gorge wall in order to get over the mountain. the waterfall was the lowest point in the surrounding peaks so I guess that is why the trail went there. We sat on some cushy green tundra plants on the top of the waterfall/mountain ridge where we talked, drank water, and saw what we think was a marmot down on some rocks by the waterfall wall.
We pressed on over the ridge and into a snow-covered valley.
*3.5 miles out of 26. This is a picture of the valley that I am talking about, I got it off a guys website, since I dont have a camera yet. The valley was pretty much all snow *
the river/creek that formed the waterfall flowed through and under the snow in the valley. we hiked on the snow field to a large rock that peaked out of the snow and sat out packs down. I climed some rocks around the river and just explored the area for a while. We ate lunch on that big rock and saw many day-hikers pass through. We explored the snow-covered valley and hills and had amazing views of the peaks of the Chugach Mtn. Range. There was a small “A” shaped cabin in the valley that campers can rent out to sleep in for the night for 50 bucks, we went in it and signed the visitors book and actually found a guys wallet that we took to turn in at the nature center at the end of the trail. We spent about an hour and a half in the valley relaxing and playing around. We had to put our rears in gear because we weren’t even a quarter of the way done for that day.
The snow field that we were hiking on was over 6 feet deep, but it was firm so the only problem was that it was slippery and hard to hike through. we hiked uphill on the snow and reached a rocky area that had tundra plants all around. as we hiked a bit farther I saw my first glacier. Raven Glacier is nestled in a valley of 2 mountain peaks and formed the valley that we were going to be hiking through for the next few hours.
*4 miles out of 26. This is a Picture of the Raven Glacier*
We hiked across the side of a peak covered in the snow. if we would have slipped we would have kept sliding down the mountain down into the valley. after hiking across the mountainside we finally got to hike down it. going down the snowy mountainside was less hiking and more jumping, sliding, and bounding.
We started down the valley following the Raven River. We hiked up a hill where bushes and tundra plants grew all over. the sun started to show itself and it was absolutly beautiful, green hills, snowy peaks, and blue sky. as we hiked over the hills, we were surprised by a mother moose standing up right in front of us. she and her calf were sitting in a divot in the hills. Knowing that mother moose can be very protective of their calves we backed off and took another trail around the hill where we got a nice look at the two who were feeding on the bushes.
We continued on across the river/creek by hopping on rocks and then hiked along our first dirt trail of the trip. The trail consisted of pretty flat dirt single-lane path that followed the raven creek. We then came to a bridge over a giant thundering waterfall. This place is called Raven Gorge and was a great place to take a break (not saying that we didn’t take breaks throughout the whole hike)
*7 miles out of 26. Here is a picture of Raven Gorge*
We crossed the bridge and continued on down the trail. We hiked for miles on rocky trails over hills, through mud, small snow-melt creeks, and patches of alder bushes, making sure to shout to make possible bears aware of our presence. All three of us were very tired, we stopped on a hill in the valley and had a snack, Ryan and Eric took naps and I just lied down. we got up and hiked over 2 more ridges in view of raven creek and then descended into a thick forrest wooded with pine trees. The trail was covered with big rocks sticking out of the dirt as it had been for the past 5 miles. along the trail we saw ahead of us a large dark figure, looking closer I saw the fuzzy antlers and face of a large bull moose. He looked at us and kept eating his dinner of leaves. Then he moved on. We kept hiking and saw the moose again, he was blocking the trail feeding away. We ended up waiting about a half an hour for this moose to finally move off the trail so we could walk past. So we kept hiking through dense forest and finally made it to the eagle river. This river flows from a large glacier called eagle glacier, because of this it is quite silty and not able to be filtered to be drank. *13 miles out of 26*
We took off our boots and put on our sandals, we then forded the river, the water was ice cold and my legs burned when I got out of the water. while we were hiking down the side of the valley we saw a big lake made by eagle glacier, I thought it would be a good idea to camp by it, so we started hiking towards it in our sandals. The lake is not actually on the regular trail so we actually hiked away from the marked trail towards the lake. We hiked over dry river beds and over some pretty bare land next to the river, I crested a hill to get a better look of the area and when I thought I had found a good spot to camp, I saw that somebody else actually was camping there. So we hiked into the woods in search of the lake but instead decided to camp a clearing in the forest.
*Here is a picture of the eagle river, When we saw it it was a bit more grey*
I cleared a place for our tent with a stick and Eric and I put it up while Ryan got dinner started. We grabed big rocks from our surroundings and made a fire ring. I “swept” the campsite, got rid of the leaf dander and the moose poop and then started to build a fire. We ate dinner. (fettucini Alfredo) While we were eating we heard some snapping of twigs and rustling of leaves in the distance and every once in a while tried to see what or who it was. At first we assumed it was some hikers passing through but then I stood up to see what it was. I saw a dark back of an animal and said “it’s a moose…” but at second glance I saw it’s face “It’s a bear…a freaking bear!” The black bear had smelled our tasty dinner and came to investigate what smelled so good. Ryan stood up and so did Eric, Ryan got a look at the bear but Eric didn’t I asked Ryan what we were supposed to do and he didnt know. I tried to remember what I had read in my backpacker magazines about if a bear comes to your camp. I shouted at the bear in a strong voice “BEAR! GO AWAY!” the bear turned and started to walk away past the back of our campsite and off into the forrest. We decided that this site was not going to work for us that night so we packed up our things. I lit the fire I had built and proceeded to pack up my things. We hiked out by the river into one of the bare clearings. I made a fire while the other guys set up the tent. Eric went to sleep at 9:30 while Ryan and I stayed up by the fire for another hour. Ryan chose to sleep outside (seeing as that the tent fit Eric and I without a whole lot of room to spare. I went to bed and slept like a baby. I wore a bandanna over my eyes to bed because as I have said in previous entries, it never truly gets night here. Dusk is at 11:30 p.m. I woke up to drizzle but fell asleep again. I woke up again and hear a bit harder rain and the sound of Ryan unzipping the tent to be sheltered from the rain. we packed into the tent and actually slept until 10:30.
The tent was piping hot when we woke up so Ryan jumped out. While I was sitting up Ryan called to us and said “You guys!….check this out!!!” I poked my head out the tent door and saw a military helicopter flying so unbelievably low through the valley. it circled our campsite and flew off over the glacier. We had no idea what the heck was going on. The chopper then came back and buzzed our campsite again and flew off down the Eagle River valley. We got out of our tent and started packing up as a bush plane flew by our campsite and came really close.
We started the day off pretty late so we had to hike pretty fast. We hiked through forest, thick forest. Then it started to rain. The undergrowth in the forest soaked my pants but since I was wearing a poncho and wearing my new pants from REI my shirt stayed dry and my pants dried fast.
We ran out of water so we had to filter water from one of the streams flowing down a mountainside. I was freaking thirsty so I drank a bottle of freshly filtered water and then we were off hiking again. We hiked pretty much non-stop that whole day past waterfalls, rivers, over rivers, and past other backpackers.
*21 miles out of 26. Here is a picture of Heritage falls one of the waterfalls we passed on our hike down the Eagle river*
My legs were so freaking tired I almost felt like stopping. We encountered some people that had been backpacking who had seen 5 bears in the past 2 days the guy was “packing heat” he had a 44 magnum for “just in case” But none of their encounters were as close as ours.
As we got closer to the end of the trail, signs got really frequent and the trail widened. We finally reached the nature center at about 6:30 but it was closed. I was so tired and so hungry but since it was closed I had no way to eat, we had to wait around for an hour until Ryan’s mom picked us up so we sat around. We remembered that we had that guy’s wallet and wrote a note in the cabin that we would leave it at the nature center. Ryan knocked on the door and turned in the wallet and got a dollar from me to buy a snickers bar. It was the best candy bar I had ever eaten.
My legs were sore, my feet were sore, my hips were sore, my shoulders were sore, my neck was sore but it was still the best backpacking trip I had ever been on!