Twin Peaks and Lake Eklutna

We drove South a bit toward Anchorage to try the Twin Peaks trail on the advice of a couple we met on the Reed Lakes trail yesterday.  It’s part of the Chugach State Park and overlooks Lake Eklutna. They said it was known for Dall sheep, bear and other wildlife.  Twin Peaks trailhead begins at Lake Eklutna and is roughly 2.8 miles with a steady uphill climb the entire length.

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The first mile or so is a wide dirt and gravel road through an aspen forest with occasional views overlooking the lake. The climb was unrelenting but fortunately the forest provided plenty of shade along the way.  At one point when stopped for a breather, we were passed by a group of young folks and noticed one of them was barefoot!  She explained that she started out wearing flip-flops and decided that hiking on gravel with bare feet was better.  Glad that was not a lesson I needed to learn firsthand.

wildflower lined trail

wildflower lined trail

The weather was the warmest so far with highs in the low 70’s so we were shedding layers and rolling up our sleeves within minutes.  There were also more people and dogs than we’ve seen on the trails. Most dogs wore bear bells on their collars making them sound like reindeer rounding the corner and chasing up behind us.

The road continued up (and up, and up) with views of the peaks about two-thirds of the way up until reaching an anticlimactic ending at a park bench perched in the grass at the end of the trail.  Disappointing, to say the least.  The peaks were beautiful but hardly worth the sweat-drenched shirts and nearly empty camelback hydration packs it left us with. We decided to continue on towards a peak in sight “just up the hill.”

Another hour of climbing, almost on our hands and knees at some points, we arrived at the foot of Pepper Peak at 3500′ elevation overlooking Lake Eklutna.

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super steep trail

Although the trail continued up Pepper Peak, we decided to stop here and have lunch.   Atop the hill, the wind picked up and our sweaty shirts quickly became chilly.  The warm sun and rocks were welcome additions to our picnic. It’s amazing how good food tastes when you’re truly hungry.  I wish I appreciated food everyday as much as I have on these mid-day meals on the trail.

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As we ate, we watched planes flying below us and saw kayakers and fishermen on the lake below. Several trails splintered off meandering the peaks and valleys.  We saw a herd of Dall sheep across the pass on the left peak and watched as they began running from left to right across the mountain side. There were probably 20-30 of them. I wish they had been closer but still happy to have seen them at all.

We posed for a group photo at the top, asking a fellow hiker to take it for us rather than doing an iPhone selfie. Here is the result

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The hike back down was faster but very hard on the knees, for sure.  The hiking sticks proved their worth once again.  Before we came on this trip, I worried about the horror stories I’d heard about mosquitos but I have to say those worries were unnecessary.  Flies and other swarming insects, on the other hand, are a different story.  We definitely needed to keep moving on the trail through the woods to keep from being attacked by flies.  All in all, the roundtrip hike was not quite 7 miles with 2,600′ elevation gain.

On the way back to Wasilla, we stopped for ice cream at Rochelle’s Ice cream, which Dana aptly dubbed an “ice cream resort”.  While waiting for your ice cream , you could pan for gold, pose behind an ice cream cone cutout, shop in the General Store, do laundry or take a shower. What more do you need?

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Reflections Lake was our last stop.  We walked the short loop around the lake edge and climbed a lookout tower that I imagine would be great for viewing moose or other interesting creatures. The only wildlife we spotted was a family of ducks paddling around the lake but the wildflowers and marshy wetlands were pretty.

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We returned to the house and relaxed for a bit before dinner. The Trout House Café (and hotel!) was our restaurant choice this evening. Most days we went straight from the dusty trail to a restaurant so it was a bit unusual to sit down with clean hands and fresh clothes.  The décor is a bit diners, drive-ins and dive-like but the food was surprisingly good.  Chandler and Dana had breakfast and Matt, Riley and I had grilled steak.  Homemade cherry and apple pies for dessert were delicious!

One more day of hiking in Alaska before we leave for Boulder on Tuesday.  I’ll be sad to leave so soon.

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