|Kenai Mountains Overlooking Upper Russian Lake|
Cadden called me last February looking for something different for his group of guys graduating college. They all agreed that the typical 'senior' beach trip paled in comparison to exploring the wilds of Alaska together. After numerous conversations and several talks about the challenges and difficulties, they signed up and arrived on May 10th.
Early May in Alaska offers the whole gambit of weather and temperatures. We backpacking Alaska this time of year! Near sea level it is spring and warm, but climb a few thousand feet and it is still winter without the extreme temps and diminished sunlight. It makes for an amazingly, diverse trip!!
|Hiking with Alaskan Ventures|
The Kenai is called "Alaska's Playground" for good reason. It is loaded with rivers, fish and beautiful mountains--most with no trails and rarely explored. Our planned destination was the unnamed mountains south of Skilak Lake but we soon had to change our plans due to weather. Alaska is still untamed for a reason, and the weather is probably the biggest factor. The wind started gusting 40 mph and the lake was impossible to navigate safely. We quickly adjusted our plans and decided on the Cooper Mountains located in Chugach National Forest. These mountains are surrounded by the famed Russian Lakes on the western slopes and Cooper Lake on the eastern border.
|Trailblazing through thick Alder bushes!! Fun!!|
Day two we all awoke in one piece, and pushed hard up the trail traveling 13 miles to the northern end of the upper Russian Lake. On the way we spotted a brown bear high on the ridge above us. The old bruin was working his way along the slope foraging for grubs and new shoots of grass, anything to hold him over until the salmon arrive. The weather was amazing and we all began looking upwards to the snowy peaks awaiting our attempt. The trail was good but our packs were heavy and we were beat! We quickly ate dinner and climbed wearily into our bags.
After breakfast and some time to ourselves along the banks of the beautiful Upper Russian Lake, we set out for the the mountains that loomed above. Their serrated peaks and snow blown ridges called a challenge to us all, and we were eager to answer. Although outwardly eager we were all secretly hesitant. It was sunny where we stood; warm and comfortable near the trail but who knew what lay ahead in the white, windblown alpine above. Many people travel the trail but few ever attempt the mountain. It was our time to step off the trail and answer the call. We were off....
|Overlooking Upper Russian Lake|
No trail, no path, nothing but Alders, Devils Club and deadfall Spruce....what have we done???? Mike Smith spoke sternly under his breath, "I paid him to take me here??!!!!" I heard him but knew this was the same process we all go through as we face any challenge. The excitement comes first, then the hard work, self doubt, and finally, if we persevere, the elated feeling of accomplishment. This trip, this mountain was no different and I knew it.
I was secretly surprised at how well these "Alabama" boys were doing. We have all sorts of people tell us they are up for the challenge that Alaska offers but few handle it as well as these men did. They were tired and sweaty but they wanted more. They were eating up the mountain with their feet ready for whatever lay ahead. I was proud of them and encouraged them on!
|Trekking across snowfield in Kenai Mountains|
Snow is by far the best base for laying a tent. It is dry, always flat and firm. For these Alabama boys this was all a new experience. For them, camping in the snow was like camping on the moon! They adapted quickly and we soon were all asleep resting our weary muscles.
We had a hard day but we had made it above treeline and into the Alpine country. The guys had battled the Alders and steep slopes and made it! They did well and we all felt proud! The view was reward enough for our efforts but the peak continued to call..... to be continued!
read "Part 2" here
If you are interested in the Senior Trip or other trips we offer check us out @ www.AlaskanVentures.com