Girdwood is located 39 miles south east from Anchorage.
We had a big day ahead. We packed our lunch and snacks and met for shuttle to Crow Pass Trailhead in Girdwood. I was still elated from hiking the Harding Icefield Trail the day before. Little I knew, I was going to have another fantastic sensory overloading hike.
There was a sign at the trailhead notifying a (section of) trail closure due to fresh bear kill of moose a few yards off the trail. It was at a farther location than our longest option of the hike so it didn’t change our plan. But, surely that bear was on everyone’s mind.
One of the things I liked about this trip is that we got to hike at our own pace. I find hiking and taking photos meditative and soothing. Normally, I avoid a big group hike but I gave Backroads a try because it seemed like they encourage us to hike at our pace.
We had 3 hiking options: Monarch Mine Ruins (3.5 mi/700 ft), Alpine Bowl Route (5 mi/1,200 ft) and Crow Pass Route (7 mi/2,200 ft). Unless I get stopped by my fear of heights on the way, I planned to hike to Crow Pass. I packed away my trekking poles so my hands were free for taking photos.
After a route rap at the trailhead, off we went. The uphill trail started out lush and green. The temperature was already in the upper 60’s and with humidity and no breeze, it almost felt like a rain forest. Some of the wildflowers started to bloom on the trail. It was like the time was rewound.
After a mile or so, we were out of the greenery and the view began to open up. And, the terrain changed from dirt to rocky.
After 0.75 miles or so, we reached at Monarch Mine Ruins. Here is an example of what not to do when you are taking a scenic photo. Don’t take a picture with half eaten food in your hand. All eyes will go to that half eaten apple in your hand instead of the beautiful scenery in the background.
After finishing my extra delicious apple, I continued on. The trail was flat for a little bit to give my legs a short break before it became steep again. Even with switchbacks, this section was very steep. Time to put my poles to work. My legs went into overdrive. Meanwhile, when I took my eyes off from the trail and tried to look around, I got little dizzy. Depth perception problem wasn’t something new to me. I kept my eyes on the path right in front of my feet and continued on.
A few others also experienced mild dizziness and anxiety caused by different levels of acrophobia. To my surprise, I was actually in a better place than some others so I tried to help them out. Tip: (only works if you have someone hiking with you) If you ever feel anxious on a slope due to minor acrophobia, have your friend walk right in front of you and keep your eyes on the back of their boots entire time until you pass that section. They all made it through. I was happy for them.
Once we passed the steep section, another obstacle was waiting for us. A stream. Ice cold stream from the glacier. A few of us decided to take our shoes and socks off and just walk right through it instead of taking time to make a rock path to walk on. The water came up to our calves. My feet were cold but felt refreshing afterwards. 🙂
The last part of the hike to Crow Pass was mostly on snow. It happened so that I hiked this section of the trail alone. In this vast ice field, I stood alone in dead silence surrounded by Alaskan raw beauty. It was an incredible feeling. I got teared up again. Nature makes you feel so small. In a good way. It gives you a different perspective on your personal thoughts and outlook on life.
It took about a mile to reach Crow Pass and Raven Glacier from the stream. What a view!
Next morning, I was enjoying my early breakfast with one of the women from the group when the waitress came over to our table and said, “..Sorry.. to bother you but there are bears out there if you want to see!” The entire section of the restaurant emptied in a second. We all went out to the deck to see a mama bear and her two cubs. Now, I saw all the wild animals I wanted to see on this trip. Amazing! The cubs were very playful. They played with each other and tried to climbed on the flower pots. They kept falling though. So cute!!
It was our last day so we did a nice 5-mile nature walk near Alyeska Resort. That’s when I saw the funniest tree ever! I thought it looked like a butt but others (on Instagram) had other opinions.
So you have it. That was my week in Alaska exploring the wilderness and what an amazing week it was. Hike to Crow Pass had everything beautiful Alaska had to offer. I didn’t realize it then but it was a perfect hike to end the incredibly adventurous week. Good job, Backroads! I am pretty sure somewhere in that ice field is where my heart decided to stay longer. It didn’t come home for next two weeks.