Saturday, October 10, 2009

7th Annual Crow Pass Hike

About a month ago, Ethan and I did our annual Crow Pass hike. The trail goes from Girdwood to Eagle River, and is 22 miles of pure hellish fun. Every year, we do this hike on one day in the fall and we always invite a bunch of people, although some years we get more people to come along than others. This year was one of our best; we had 8 people on the trip, 2 dogs, and the weather was spectacular. Pictures taken by me, my friend Erica and her coworker Brian.

We learned early on that it was better to start earlier rather than later, so we always start literally at the crack of dawn -- about a half hour before sunrise.

Looking back the valley toward the trailhead.

The first 4 miles of the trail is a steep uphill to the pass. That's actually a good thing, because the next 18 miles are all downhill.

At the pass, we get a great view of Raven Glacier. It's usually pretty cold and windy in the pass, but this year it was actually rather pleasant.

One reason to do this hike in the fall is for the spectacular colors. Look closely in the picture above (click on it); there are sheep on the far mountain, just below the clouds.

On the other side of the pass, the terrain is alpine tundra for quite a ways and you get some spectacular views.

Raven Gorge just past the waterfall.

Then you cross over Raven Gorge, which includes a violent 30 foot waterfall. It's really quite amazing.

Once you get past the Gorge, the trail goes through some dense brush and into the trees and gets very muddy. It is interesting to see how the trail changes each year. Our first year, this tree was still alive and the roots were very slick. Now, it is not such a hazard. It is still representative of some of the unpleasant stumbling blocks we come across, though.

On to the most painful part -- the Eagle River crossing. I can't believe I'm actually smiling in this picture. We are a couple of miles downriver from the glacier and the water is probably 33 degrees. It is so cold that it is very very painful. Another reason we like to do this crossing in the fall is that the river is at its shallowest; it's only about knee height at its deepest point. I hear in the summer people cross it up to their chests in the ice cold water. I can't imagine it. That seems very dangerous.

The creek crossing at Thunder Gorge.

After the river, the path goes through the trees a lot more. You still get some amazing views, but not quite as many. For a while it becomes like a little obstacle course, where you have to climb up and down hills with ropes and ladders and balance your way across creeks on logs. It is actually quite fun.

View back up Eagle River toward Eagle Glacier, from the Perch.

I never take quite as many pictures on the ER side, because I'm tired and ready to get home. This year, I wish I had taken more because I've never had such great weather for the hike. In particular, I remember the golden trees surrounding Heritage Falls, everything lit up by the sun. I am sure I will never see it as beautiful as I did this year.

This is the final path into the Eagle River Nature Center, probably about 2 miles out. You can see the red currants and high bush cranberries, with the aspens and birches above. When I get here, I know I'm finally almost home.

Our Crow Pass hike is probably the most awesome thing that we do. It makes me feel more Alaskan than pretty much any other activity. I know whenever we leave this place, the memories from these hikes will be some that I treasure the most.


craftosaurus said...

Wow! "22 miles of pure hellish fun" seems like such an apt description. Amazing photos, and amazing outdoorsiness!

Kelly Muys Wood said...

crafto stole the words right out of my mouth. wow. WOW. we don't get much hiking down this-a-way, so i'm crazy green with envy over here. that looks like it was sooo much fun.

minus the freezing wading, anyway...


L said...

Thanks guys! Glad you liked the photos! The freezing wading is always the worst part, but it's kind of one of those rites of passage. You hate it at the time, but afterward it's cool to say you did it!

Alpha Monkey said...

This hike looks awesome! I'm jealous.