Today we hiked Crow Pass from the trailhead in Girdwood. Glaciers, waterfalls and mining ruins made this one of the most interesting hikes so far. The first part of the trail was lined with salmonberry and blueberry bushes. Not many blueberries were ripe but there were plenty of the juicy and sweet salmonberries.
The weather was not ideal for hiking, low 50’s in Girdwood with occasional light rain and drizzle and high winds in the forecast, but it really wasn’t bad once we got moving. We knew we would have to ford the creek at least twice and so we packed extra socks and layers to stay warm and dry. The trail parallels Crow Creek framed by dramatic mountain ranges on both sides. The landscape is among the most beautiful we’ve seen.
The trail follows the old Monarch Mine road and remains of some of the mining equipment and foundation of the bunkhouse and cookhouse are still visible along the trail. The gold mine was a lode (vein) mine and operated from 1909 to 1938.A bit further, the trail turned rocky and steeper. A short side trail leads to the Crow Creek Cascades where water from the snow melt gushes through cracks in the rocky canyon. The red rocks look like stacked bricks and appear to be rusty in places. We explored around the waterfalls and then followed the trail through a rocky area with mossy groundcover and wildflowers over rolling hills.
The wind picked up and was blowing the light rain almost horizontal against our backs. The temperature dropped to the 40’s and our spare socks were repurposed as mittens for our cold hands. Well, some of us did anyway. Matt used his for their intended purpose after he lost his balance and stepped one foot into the icy water while crossing the creek. We were getting hungry and a bit cold so we looked for a sheltered spot out of the wind. We almost stopped in a low lying grassy area but it seemed pretty soggy. Riley suggested we go on over the next ridge to see what else there may be.
Perfect timing! We crested the hill and saw Crystal Lake and the National Forest Service Crow Pass cabin just waiting for us to stop in and have lunch. We hiked over and went inside to find shelter. The wind was really howling and the rain striking the window so hard it sounded like sleet. Inside we found a cozy little space complete with a dining table, gas burning stove, a loft and a couple bunk beds along one wall. We unpacked our lunches and feasted on Cheetos, PB&J and turkey and ham sandwiches with 2 Oreos each for dessert. Dana and I were very happy to find an outhouse next to the cabin.Rested, warmed, and nourished, we moved on toward Crow Pass. The wind was steady and probably close to 50 MPH; so hard that we truly had to lean into the wind to keep from falling over. Hard packed snow covered the ground and the slight decline made it a bit slippery to cross.
The afternoon was spent warming up and relaxing in our cabin and having take-out pizza for dinner at home. Tomorrow we’ll travel to Wasilla to explore new territory.