Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ptarmigan Valley Trail-Chugiak

View of what would be the mountain the Ptarmigan Valley Trail heads up...if we could see it (taken from the softball fields across the road from the trailhead)
I like exploring and checking out random trails when I am traveling, so the other day when we had to drop Denver off at Boy Scout camp north of Anchorage, we took the Old Glenn Highway from the Chugiak exit and drove by a trailhead sign. I'd never heard of it and was intrigued, so when we had a few hours to while away before meeting some folks for dinner, I suggested we check it out.

Brown State Park signs always catch my eye
We started out and within minutes we realized we needed to be better prepared: the mosquitoes were thick, and we hadn't put bug dope on. Back to the car we went, then we tried again. The trailhead sign cracked me up. Here it is. Try to figure out what they all are. I especially want to know what that one with the ball is.

I like how they put a moose and bear on this sign as a "trail user"

It seems like this trail is used most heavily in the winter as a snowmachine tail

Tad blurry, but you get the idea--a fairly nice trail, though it is not all graveled like this
This trail climbs and climbs and climbs. It looked like it is 6 miles to the end of the trail. Snowmachines are supposed to stay on trail for the first 5 miles, so my guess is that it takes 5 miles to get above treeline. Signs for snowmachiners abounded: speed limits, stay on trail, turns, etc. so it seems that this is a very popular trail in the winter. I would guess we made it 2 or 3 miles up the trail.

We climbed--right to the clouds, literally! When we realized we would have no view from the trail today, either up or down, we decided to turn back. At one point the clouds parted enough for us to see Cook Inlet or maybe a large river, but that was as much overview as we got. It was a very comfortable climb: the grade was moderate and neither Doug nor I got winded at all, and the hike back took almost as long as the hike up so it would seem that our speed was about the same both ways.

What I liked about this hike was that the trail was really quite nice. It was wide-ish as trails go with only a few boggy spots and not too much brush and branches hanging over the trail. There was no other traffic on it, though we did see some fresh horse prints so obviously at least someone else had been on the trail that day (I'm not a big horseback rider, but I could see enjoying this trail by horseback.). What was terrible was the mosquitoes. We reapplied bug spray 3 times in 45 minutes and still the bugs hit us like rain. My bare arms were a mass of bug carcasses by time we were done.

If I were up in Chugiak again with time to spare, I would definitely check out this trail again for a nice walk!

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