Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Revisiting Hope 2017

Hope is one of my favorite places in Alaska to visit, with some of my top activities:  camping, hiking and mountain biking. As Douglas headed up to Fairbanks to provide administrative coverage for softball state, the kids and I headed to Hope for a long weekend of fun.

Gate to our campground of choice was closed
However, the weekend took an unexpected turn when we arrived in town, because the gate to the Coeur d'alene Campground was closed, where we were planning to camp out at and make our base to explore from. Luckily it was a Thursday evening so there were still spots open at the Porcupine Campground a few miles away at the end of the road. In fact, we even got an ocean front view spot, quite a rarity and I was questioning how that was possible until the next morning when we were informed there was a mistake and we needed to move to another site.

A view of Turnagain Arm from the Porcupine Campground
The next day we decided to bike the road that was closed to the campground. It turned out that an avalanche had covered the road and was still deep enough to make the road impassable. As we discovered when we biked out there, the mountains are still completely covered with snow, so we wouldn't have been able to do all the exploring we'd hoped to do, so it was a good thing we weren't all the way out there. 

I hadn't realized how far up that road climbed from the gate to the highest point, but it took me a full hour of uphill biking to reach that point (which, by the way, took me only 12 minutes to coast down on the return trip!). Whew! A downhill never felt so good, though I was soon stopped by avalanche areas--first branches covering the road from already-melted avalanches, then the one avalanche that needed to be clambered over.

The kids also climbed a 4200 foot peak off to one side of the valley, choosing one for it's lack of snow. They were rewarded with miles and miles of peaks in the distance, a treat they said was worth the climb.

A summery day for a bike ride up the Palmer Creek Road

This avalanche is responsible for the road being closed.
Apparently plowing it isn't an option??

A couple of other areas with branches littering the road are
telltale signs of avalanches that have melted already

The Coeur d'alene Campground is petite with 6 tenting only sites, but it is free and remote!

The mountains past the campground were still snow-covered, and warm temperatures
meant soft snow not conducive for exploring the mines and area

A beautiful view of Turnagain Arm looking towards Anchorage was worth
 braking for on my 12 minute downhill coast back to the gate

The next day we decided to climb Hope Point, and despite predictions of possible rain, turned out to be another scorcher by Alaska standards (65-75 degrees). I regretted not wearing shorts, figuring it would be cooler up higher. I was more comfortable once I rolled up my tights to my knees. The 2000 foot climb went by relatively quickly with the new switchbacks that lengthened the trail to 3.5 miles, but made it a moderate climb rather than a straight-up grueling one.  The main highlight was seeing 4 mountain sheep reclining on the rocks of a nearby peak as I reached the saddle for the final push to the top.

The mountain sheep looked like patches of snow at first 
The kids have been pushing their limits beyond trails this summer, so after reaching the summit of Hope Point, moved on to another nearby peak.

View of a nearby peak the kids climbed, as seen from Hope Point
Our final day, the kids decided to bike the entire length of the Resurrection Pass Trail, all 36-39 miles of it (depending on which trail map to believe; Denver's GPS said it was 37.65 miles). This was going to be a stretch for them, as the longest mountain bike ride they'd done before was 25 miles on the Russian Lakes Trail a few years ago. We plotted and planned, packed backpacks and filled waterbottles, and at 7:30 am the next morning I snapped a picture of them before they headed down the trail, looking all clean and eager.

Juneau Falls off the Resurrection Trail, swollen with spring runoff
They estimated, on the high side, it would take them 12 hours to bike it. My guess was 8 hours, which would put them just over 5 mph. That meant I had a long day to fill before picking them up at the other end of the trail, in Cooper Landing. But between getting breakfast, breaking camp, and driving to the Cooper trailhead, I had a little bit of time before the early estimate of 8 hours. I hopped on my bike and headed up the trail, with my goal Juneau Falls 4.5 miles away. It took me 50 minutes of mostly uphill to get there, and just as I was getting ready to hop on my bike to head back, the kids pulled in on their bikes. I snapped a quick picture of them in front of the falls, now looking tired and muddy, and we careened down the final miles to the trailhead.

It was an intense weekend of hiking and biking, and we returned home sore and happy having fulfilled the goal of summer in Alaska:  adventures!!

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