Friday, August 11, 2017

Summit Lake Area

Exploring is the buzz word of my summers. Each May our family comes up with lists of mountains to climb, trails to hike and places to camp. Some people go back to the same places year after year. We like to always be finding new spots to explore. The Summit Lake area was on my bucket list for this summer, so come mid-July and a few days free, my hubby and I headed to the Tenderfoot Campground that sits on the back side of Upper Summit Lake just off the Seward Highway.

But first for a gem we discovered on the way there:  the Tern Lake Rest Area/Picnic Area. We'd only stopped there once before and hadn't ventured out of the parking lot, but this time we decided to check out the unmaintained dirt road that leads out of the Tern Lake parking lot, just to see where it goes. It went further than we wanted to hike! The sign stated it was the old Sterling Highway, so I'm guessing it goes all the way to Kenai Lake in Cooper Landing. It had gradual climbs and big potholes (we wouldn't want to drive it with our vehicle!), but it would be perfect for mountain biking.

A perfect road for a mountain biking jaunt

A beautiful little waterfall along the road

On a nice day the Tern Lake Picnic area is a beautiful stop
On to the Tenderfoot Campground! One of the features of this campground is Summit Lake Lodge practically next door, with full service restaurant as well as a pizza and ice cream shop next door, both on the gorgeous Summit Lake. There are also all sorts of side roads, two tracks and trails to explore, and we spent our days driving from one pull-off to the next, taking the trail as far as it would take us before it petered off into nothingness, the wilds reclaiming it.

A trail up the mountain near the campground was a neat mountainous meadow that ended up in a bog

One random discovery of the day that made me go, "Huh?"

Mountains and meadows...this one following the powerline across the highway from Summit Lake
The most substantial hike we discovered was what I will call the Colorado Creek trail. It was unmarked and unnamed, but went up the valley that Colorado Creek came rushing down, parallel to Devil's Creek and Summit Creek to the south.

When heading south on the Seward Highway, cross Colorado Creek

Just past the creek on the right there is a gate
Can you tell where the trail begins?
It took a sharp eye to see it, and trust that it wasn't one's imagination, but it is straight ahead!

The lower reaches of this trail were the best, climbing through a mossy pine forest

Balancing up a fallen tree was one of the gymnastics of this trail

Views upvalley were rare, and it looks like most of the trail stays in the brush below treeline

Avoiding muck became more common as we went further up the trail
It would take some work to turn this trail into a "trail" that could handle any amount of traffic. I can see why it hasn't been developed:  it stays in the brush far upvalley, while Summit Creek Trail one valley to the south offers impressive views within minutes of being on the trail. However, it was fun to explore. After awhile we figured we weren't going to see anything we hadn't already seen (more alders, more muck) so we turned back.

On yet another side jaunt, we discovered a mining claim on a stream, a cute bridge over a rushing mountain stream, and a potential place to stay on future outings:  Manitoba Cabin. Since we had internet access, I immediately Googled Manitoba Cabin and discovered it is two yurts and a cabin for rent, fairly inexpensively. We could hear kids laughing in the woods from a ways off, so we didn't actually go to the cabin, but did save the website for future reference:

A cute little road leading to Manitoba Cabin

Love all the little bridges we see around on our hikes

Overall, it was a very fun trip exploring all sorts of side roads I've wanted to check out for years. It has just whet my appetite for more, and I look forward to next summer and camping in the area again and seeing what else we can discover!

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