August 10, 2014
After our short stay in Seattle we are finally on the way for our final destination. I entertained the idea of going to Alaska before I even started school several years ago and was truly excited to finally be mere miles away. We take a late evening flight from Seatac to AIA (Anchorage Intl) and even though we leave when it is almost completely dark as we keep moving north, the sky becomes brighter despite the late hour. The midnight sun season is over by early August but we would still still enjoy longer than usual days. Alaska greets us with rainy and cloudy weather as expected. It rains a lot throughout our visit when it is cloudy or even when it is sunny but it is just part of the local weather that you have to come to terms with. Most of the time it is merely a drizzle though that people pay little attention to, not a downpour that you would usually get in the Southern states.
We only spend one night in Anchorage and after getting camping supplies and groceries start driving on Hwy 1 south along the coast. First stopping in a town of Girdwood, just a short drive from Anchorage, we walk around the Blueberry Festival grounds. Girdwood is the only town in central Alaska that maintains downhill ski trails despite abundance of mountains in the state, it is simply uneconomical to build ski resorts on the same scale as in Colorado or Utah. Girdwood is a host to Alyeska hotel and ski resort that attracts skies and snowboarders in winters and hikers in the summer boasting several trails nearby and plenty of blueberries on its hills in late summer. The blueberry festival is an annual event featuring a live band as well as crafts and food vendors offering blueberry creations- pies, crepes, honey and of course fresh blueberry. We get ricotta blueberry crepes and quesadilla for lunch and consider taking on of the chairlifts going up the blueberry hill for visitors who prefer to pick their own berries. But before we get in line it starts raining and we return to the car to keep driving toward the village of Hope.
Hope is a small village in the Northeast part of the Kenai peninsula and is mostly famous as a final or a start point for the Resurrection trail. Resurrection trail is a popular 38 mile long route connecting communities of Hope and Coopers Landing on the Kenai peninsula. There are several forest service cabins along the trail that are available for hikers; cabins are quite primitive with only bunk beds, wooden stove, table and chairs, and an ax and saw for firewood. While we have no time to do the entire 38 mile walk, we start at Hope and hike for 7.1 miles until we reach Caribou Creek Cabin where we stop for the night. The trail is quite secluded and we only meet three people along the way and all within a mile of the trailhead.
The section of the trail from the Hope trailhead to the cabin mostly parallels the river and travels through mixed spruce and birch forest. The trail is relatively even with few ups and downs and is relatively easy though with quite a few narrow and muddy spots, especially after it rains. While we do not encounter any wildlife except for birds and a ton of bloodthirsty mosquitoes on our way, the area is known for black and brown bears, wolves, and moose, thus everyone is advised to take bear safety precautions and to make enough noise especially in lush vegetation areas. With regard to local flora, we note cow parsnip all along the trail, horsetail, and lupine flowers closer to the river bank. At higher elevations a dark green forest floor displays multiple splashes of color, filled with red, yellow, and brown mushroom hats. Mushroom galore along the resurrection trail and in other parts of Alaska is truly remarkable, I count at least 15 different mushroom types just walking along the trail, both edible and toxic varieties. One ever stranded in the Alaskan bush could probably survive on mushrooms alone.
We start our hike around 6 pm and after crossing the river several times we come across a long bridge at mile 7 marking the proximity of the cabin. We finally notice the sign pointing to the cabin and the cabin itself positioned slightly off the trail, overlooking the river bank. It is closer to 9-10 pm now and the sun slowly starts disappearing behind the mountain ridges.
A rustic cabin looks spacious, warm, and cozy, and after fetching some drinking water from the stream and starting a fire, we settle in and sit down for dinner looking out to the view of the creek and a mountain ridge above it. There is a guest book in the cabin left by a forest service where every guest checked in and shared their experiences. We add a note for August 10th:
Beautiful hike. Did not see any bear trace on the way in. Cabin was clean and toasty when we arrived at 10 pm. Stocked some water for the next guest. It gets chilly at night -the wooden stove makes it much nicer. Plenty of firewood.
The sun finally sets closer to midnight and with only a faint sound of the stream rippling and burbling in the valley below, resembling rain drops, we fall sleep in complete darkness with clouds covering the night sky that day. The next morning we fix a quick breakfast and trek the same 7.1 miles back to the trailhead, but this time the scenery is familiar except for muddy patches here and there formed by the overnight rain and the morning dew. We press on almost without stopping and get to the trailhead around lunch time, put the gear back into the car, and leave the village of Hope for our next destination.