Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crow Pass Hike

It's been 2 weeks since this hike -- the blisters have healed, laundry & work is caught up on, and I'm itching to do some more hiking -- so I better post these pictures and tell the tale:

CROW PASS: A Tale of Many Crossings

Two middle-aged women set out on an adventure: 24 miles from Girdwood to Eagle River over some spectacular Chugach Mountain terrain -- two nights of camping along trail, fording a major river, no kids, husbands, or cell phones -- relying just on ourselves!

Originally it was going to be my 22-yr old daughter, some of her friends and I, but Eldest ended up doing research in the Shelikof Strait, West of Kodiak. So instead of a mother-daughter trip, it became a 2-girlfriend trip. My long-time friend C flew in from Fairbanks for the weekend. My worried husband dropped us off at the trailhead in Girdwood: reports of the ford site being waist-high made us all uneasy -- we promised that if the water was too high, then we'd just turn around!

We had a wonderful trip! Both of us lamented that we had not done anything like this since before our children were born, and now for each the oldest child had graduated-- where did the time go?

The first 4 miles lead us up and over Crow Pass (picture above) and back down, climbing and descending 2000 ft elevation, right past Raven Glacier (see picture on left).

The weather was perfect.

It had been really hot (for Alaska-standards) and the glaciers were melting gang-busters. Therefore we had to cross several smaller creeks, such as this crossing here of Clear Creek at its confluence with Raven Creek. We each carried a separate pair of river-crossing shoes. Take a look at those COLD feet!

We camped in a meadow along Raven Creek, waking up the next morning to over 100 runners passing: this was the weekend of the Crow Pass Marathon. Incredible athletes -- this year the 3 hour record was broken (see ADN news article & pictures here) -- to think it took them 3 hours what took us 3 days!
The last runner was somebody I knew, and she called out to us leisurely eating our breakfast "That looks like a lot more fun" -- she had just climbed and dropped those 2000 ft in something like 1 hour!!!

We reached the ford site at mid-day. The Eagle River was impressively high when we got to it -- raging full of gray glacial melt water. Nobody was around, and we decided to go for it. We debated whether we should ford together or separately, and on acct of our heavy backpacks decided to go solo (unbuckled, ready for ditching in case of falling). We were worried about making things less stable holding on to each other, plus we each had picked up an alder walking stick along the way. In retrospect, we would have been better off crossing as a team.

So intrepid C went in first, and I followed after a little while. If you've never forded a river, let me tell you, it's an amazing and scary experience! The cold of that icy water hits you like you can't imagine. But what was even tougher is the tremendous force of that water, and how hard it is to get a steady foothold -- or shall I say numb-hold? My feet felt numb after a few minutes, and it was a challenge not panic, but just keep telling myself to "keep going -- you can do it!"

I don't know if it took 5 minutes, or 10, but by the time I got the other side (only an island, there was more icewater to go!!!), I ripped out my sleeping back and put my icecube feet inside. Ohhh, did they hurt warming up! But soon I was warmed & fed (chocolate helps!), and we did the 2nd crossing of the braided river, which luckily wasn't as deep or wide as the first part.

We hiked a few more miles and made camp for the second night. Vigilant about encountering bears, we carried bearspray and cooked & ate away from our campsite, plus I carried all the food in a bear-proof container (just for kicks, here's a NY Times article about a NewEngland black bear who figured out to open bearproof containers). All we saw of bears is this and other lovely piles of scat.

We had about 11 miles to hike on our last day, without the elevation extremes or wet crossings. Plenty more creeks to cross, but there were lots of bridges. I admit I was a little worried when we got to raging Icicle Creek (picture below), but luckily there was a log for crossing with a rope just a little further upstream.
Here's my favorite when it comes to creek names: Yakedeyak -- just say it real fast!

About 5 miles from home, there's a spot named the perch, with a good view of the "mighty" Eagle River, which we've come to call it. The river may look peaceful from up there, but we're here to tell you it's nothing like that.

We did it!
We were proud of having done this hike, and talked about getting together and doing another one next summer, perhaps somewhere in the interior (where the rivers are warmer...?)

When we got home, the kids cooked us a hearty supper of basghetti and meatball, we drank some wine, and slept like babes!

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