Friday, March 21, 2014

Alaska: Eagle River

Hiked up Eagle River today on a piece of the Iditarod trail called the Crow Pass cutoff
 Eagle River, the town and the river, are less than 20 miles north of Anchorage. The entire length of Eagle River River made up a section of the Iditarod trail which cut through the Chugach Mountains over Crow Pass, bypassing the flats where Anchorage now sits. If conditions permitted you could cross over Crow Pass by turning right at Girdwood and climbing up between Raggedtop and Barns Mountains along Crow Creek then over the pass to the headwaters of Eagle River and down the river to rejoin the trail near at Knik Arm.
Today Girdwood is a ski town and, road conditions permitting, you can drive Crow Creek Rd up alongside the old trail to about 1200 feet then hike 3 or 4 miles up to the talus slopes in the pass at about 3600 feet before turning around to beat the dark back to your car.
Then from the other end you can hike up Eagle River towards the same pass, but you’d have to be really committed to make it all the way to the pass on a day hike since it’s 14 miles away from the trailhead on that end!!
However far you go from the Eagle River trailhead, this is a great hike through some beautiful terrain.
Today I shared the trail with some kayakers for a while.  They hauled their kayaks about three miles up before putting into the river and leaving me to go on by myself.  The river was high, probably normal for summertime, but I'm used to seeing it during seasons where several channels braid their way through gravel bars.  This time it was wall to wall water and moving fast!  It wasn't something I would want to try kayaking without some significant paddle time first.
I didn’t make it all the way to the pass but I think I pushed it a little farther than I should have and  covered about 20 miles all told by the time I dragged myself back to the car. That’s too far to hike in a day, no matter what your conditioning!!   
Besides the kayakers there were several other hiking parties on the trail and a park service helicopter came by twice checking thing out.
Boy!  It sure is crowded up here.


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