July 27-28, 2012
Our last stop in the Kenai peninsula is the town of Girdwood, yet another small Alaskan town. It is a popular destination for skiing, mountain biking, para-sailing, and hiking. We did none of those things save for hiking.
Its a short drive from Hope, so even though we left late so we could visit the Hope museum, we are set up in “camp” by mid afternoon. Camp is just an asphalt parking lot of the Alyeska Ski Resort, no services for $10/night. At least half the lot is filled with cars, but there is plenty of room for us and the handful of other campers that eventually arrive.
The parking spot next to our camper turns out to be quite popular with a woman who seems to show up at the resort every day to go hard-core mountain biking (you ride the ski lift up and the bike straight down). Reen chats her up and plays with her dog both days. Her name turns out to be Jill and she is the coolest, cutest, mountain-biking, rescue dog raising, internet blogging, Alaskan chick you can imagine.
The weather is great so Reen and I decide to spend the evening hiking. Brian and Will stay behind and go out to dinner with their friend Paul, who has just arrived to spend a few days camping with them.
We head out on the Winner Creek trail, which has a trail head right on the resort property. Its not the most remote hike we’ve done, but its a very scenic trail through the forest with both rivers and gorges. Here’s a couple of shots of Reen on one of the bridges over the river. Isn’t she cute in her hiking skirt!
Getting over the gorge isn’t so easy, and requires a little more muscle. Instead of a bridge, the forest service has installed a “hand tram”. This is pretty much a small cable car powered by YOU. When we get there, the car is on the other side, so the first thing we have to do was pull it back to our side. This shot is from the station on our side after we’ve pulled it over. You can see its pretty far across to the other station.
It looks a little hairy but we climb in and start pulling again. Its actually scarier to look at than it is to actually ride. This is a shot of the side we’re heading to from about half way out. Pull, Reen, pull.
These are shots up and down the gorge from the same spot. Its high enough up that you really wouldn’t want that cable to snap. Think of it as motivation for pulling faster. Keep pulling Reen, I’m almost done taking pictures.
Its an out and back hike, and we get lucky on the way back. There’s lots of traffic over the tram so we don’t have to wait and some other hikers do most of the work pulling us across from the station.
We wake up the next day to familiar looking overcast sky, and decide to do another hike to Crow Pass. This one is a little more challenging, 3.5 miles (all up hill) to the pass. While some parts of the lower trail are decent hiking surfaces, large portions are over rock piles, remaining snow drifts, and across glacier fed streams.
Here’s a nice shot of Brian and Will heading down the trail. This is actually one of the better sections.
The only wildlife we saw on the trail, not counting a few over-excited and way over-energetic dogs. I think its a pack rat. Can you find him?
Another shot looking back down the trail.
We are at the pass. As you can see, its a little cold and windy!
From the pass you can see a mountain lake and yet another glacier. There is also a hikers cabin up there you can reserve to spend a few nights. It sits right near that lake and looks like a mini ski chalet from a distance.
Tomorrow we head back to Anchorage.