As mentioned in our last post, we are back in Palmer for a few days. There are a number of chores that we need to accomplish while here, but first we had some activities that we ran out of time for last time we were in the area, so we got to the fun stuff first!
First, when we visited the Hatcher Pass area last time we were here, we had planned to do two hikes, but ran out of time for the second one. We also didn’t have time to drive the entire road like we were hoping to do, so on Monday we headed back to the Hatcher Pass area and straight to the April Bowl trail. This is a short, steep hike that goes up to several lakes in a mountain cirque. If you get to the lakes and want to stop here, you can certainly do so and it would still be a worthy hike. However, you can also continue up to Hatch Peak from here to get a great view down onto the lakes and surrounding area. We took it even further and followed the ridge all the way around the cirque and down the other side, making it into a lollipop trail. There was not one minute of this hike that we didn’t have spectacular views. To top it off, on our way up, low clouds starting rolling in which only added to the allure. We have never seen clouds move that fast! Jeff said it looked like a timelapse video without the lapse! Once our hike was complete, we ventured on down the Hatcher Pass Road to see the rest of it that we hadn’t seen before. Our synopsis is this…if you have time to do it all, definitely go for it, but don’t feel bad if you aren’t able to go any further than the Summit Lake area. Just a short distance past Summit Lake, you leave the mountainous setting and basically just follow a river the rest of the way out to Willow. It is still scenic, but not nearly as awe-inspiring as the Hatcher Pass/Summit Lake area. One interesting observation we made…When we were in the area on July 2, Summit Lake was almost completely frozen. The only open water was around the very edge. At our visit on July 24, there was not a bit of ice left! It looked completely different and we were amazed at the change!
The other hike that we had really wanted to do before was the South Fork Valley Trail in Eagle River. This is about a 45 minute drive from Palmer, but still within striking distance, so on Tuesday morning, we got an early start and headed that way. This is an 11 mile hike with 1,500 feet of elevation gain, but the pictures and videos we have seen of it were spectacular, so we were willing to put in the effort. This hike turned out to be a bit more of a challenge and took a lot longer than we expected. The elevation was no problem, and the distance wasn’t really either. The problem was that toward the end of the valley, when approaching Eagle and Symphony Lakes (the destination for the hike) there is an absolutely MASSIVE boulder field that you have to cross to get there. Just this relatively short section of the trail took us about an hour each way to cross, and Heather was terrified the entire time that one of us was going to misstep and end up 5 miles into the wilderness with a broken ankle. Thankfully, we were careful and made it to the gorgeous lakes in one piece. What is so spectacular about these lakes is that you can view them from a ridge between the two and they are entirely different colors. Eagle Lake is a silty light green because it is glacially fed and contains a lot of glacial silt. Symphony Lake is a deep emerald green because it is not fed by a glacier; its water comes from general meltwater and run off. Having the two side-by-side was a bit surreal. There was an area you could hike up even further to get a higher view of the two, and the photos and video would have been spectacular from up there, but we knew we still had to back-track through everything we had already been through and decided it was far enough for us. At the end of the day, the hike took us about seven hours.
Today (Wednesday) was spent on chores that we won’t bore you with, and we roll out of here tomorrow. Once again, Palmer was good to us and we had a great visit. We have fallen in love with this area! As for tomorrow…we know our general direction and have some ideas of what might come next, but no firm plans, so stay tuned!
Until next time!