Saturday, June 7, 2008

Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area Camping

We had an event-filled 3 days camping at Hidden Lake last week in the Skilak WRA with a group of 20 or so people (my aunt and uncle and all their kids and grandkids). Here are a few highlights:

Black bear: As we were driving down the Skilak Lake Road (a gravel loop off the Sterling Highway) a black bear with a gorgeous, glossy pelt ambled off the road. My aunt and uncle saw a bear on the road 2 hours earlier when they drove it too. A few nights later my husband and I were walking the roads in the campground and a man pulled up in his van and said he just saw a sow with 3 cubs cross the road in the campground a little ways from where we were at. We saw plenty of bear scat on our hikes, some fresher than others. Apparently the brown bear aren't around (near lakes and rivers) until the next week or so when the fish begin to run.

Kayaking and canoing: We went out kayaking and canoing a number of times a day as our campsite was right on Hidden Lake (It is a double spot, and the only site in the campground that is right on the lake, so a coveted place!). As we paddled along a pair of loons swam within 20 feet of us, and if the loons weren't around when we started, they came out once we got out there. It was so neat to have them pop out of the water next to our canoe, swim around and then dive again. They were so u
nafraid! A momma moose and 2 babies came down to the shore to eat across the bay from us, so we paddled over for a closer look. There were other shorebirds as well, rocks coming down to the water, and basically a beautiful northern lake.

Morel mushrooms: Wow! Who would have thought we would be in mushroom heaven in Alaska, after moving from Michigan where they are known for mushrooms? We found more mushrooms here than we'd ever found in Michigan, and we weren't even looking for them! We introduced our party to them, and soon lots of them were spotting mushrooms everywhere. It was a tasty side dish for dinner one night.

Hiking: The kids and I hiked these trails last August (you can go to past blog entries for details on the hikes last summer), but the grass was only a foot tall (compared to over our heads last summer!), so we found it much more enjoyable hiking. Of course, there weren't the ripe berries that we'd found in August, so guess that's the trade-off! Bear scat was especially plentiful on the Hideout Trail (above, with wildflowers in foreground) in some places every 20 feet or so, but we were in such a large, noisy group that we weren't worried (In Alaska no group of more than 3 people has ever been attacked by a bear.). The Burney's Trail, which starts in the Hidden Lake Campground, was lengthened and improved, and so was much better than last summer. And the Vista Trail (top photo and below), an 800 foot climb with incredible views of Skilak Lake, had snow near the top that the kids had fun playing in, which was a cool treat after a hard climb. Even a 4-year-old girl made it up that trail in a little over an hour, so it is very do-able.


Shelley said...

All the photos were stunning - it is how I dream Alaska looks like. Love hearing about your hikes and the wildlife!

Lorraine said...

Hi Michelle,
We had a great year on Morel's (and a super festival) this May. I guess we should have scheduled our trip for just after the festival to 'extend the season' and pick in Alaska!
The picture(s) great and I'm glad you were able to introduce friends to morels.