The darkest days of the year on and around Christmas are often the brightest for us spiritually, as we adorn our homes with lights and decorations and draw closer to loved ones and friends. In one way or another, whether through church activities, prayer, or in communion with nature, we begin to experience a deeper, stronger bond with God and each other.
At first it was a passing thought. Then it took hold as an idea. Finally, it became an obsession: I was going to ice skate before it snowed and closed what I term the ice skating “window.” It all started Nov. 21 during a hike into Eagle Lake over a snowless trail.
Eagle River resident Andrew North is waiting for snow. “It’s very strange,” he said of the unusually warm, low-precipitation winter Southcentral Alaska’s been having. “I normally would appreciate if there was snow down. That means there’s more activities to do outside.”
These snow-free Novembers don’t roll around that often, and with unseasonably balmy temperatures (compared to some Lower 48 states), we should be getting outdoors as often as possible to enjoy the sun before it begins hiding below the horizon.
It was a clear and cold morning of Oct. 7 as friend Radu Girbacea and I began a 14-mile traverse of the Lost Lake Trail on the Kenai Peninsula, in Chugach National Forest. After stashing a car at the south end of the trail at Mile 5 of the Seward Highway, we drove back to Primrose at Mile 18, by Kenai Lake, to begin our hike.
Autumn seems to rush past us like a gust of wind, and try as we might, it’s difficult if not impossible to prolong it so we can savor the brilliant colors, brisk mornings and snow-dusted mountain tops.
During this transition from summer to autumn and then winter, the rapidly diminishing daylight can sneak up on us. As we lose more than 35 minutes of daylight per week, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves scurrying and stumbling along the trail in an attempt to beat the darkness.
Hiking east on the ridge past Mt. Eklutna (4,110 feet) above Peters Creek, Pete Panarese and I had our first glimpse of our entire route--a 17-mile circumnavigation of the entire Four-Mile Creek drainage. On most hikes a person only sees single parts of the trip at a time; but here it was laid out before us -- and needless to say-- was quite intimidating.
Anyone who isn’t aware we have one of the best berry crops in years has been locked inside a closet. If you’re inclined toward hiking above the tree line you’ll notice a proliferation of blueberries and crowberries. I haven’t seen it myself, but I’m told that down toward Girdwood and farther south on the Kenai Peninsula, the wild salmon berries and raspberries are also profuse.
For those who have perused my ‘Mountain Echoes’ column over the years, it’s probably quite evident what my favorite hikes are. But there’s nothing wrong with a review. What I hope is to peak your interest in trying a few out yourself. I’ll start with my absolute favorite and work down the list, with the caveat that even number 10, at the bottom of the list, is stellar in my opinion.