Any Alaskan would agree that the weather here can change every 20 minutes- year round. You can only imagine the climate changes we endured in the middle of February on a 10 mile trek into Alaska’s backcountry. Our destination? Juneau Lake Cabin! We began our ascent at the south trailhead on Resurrection Pass Trail. The shifting weather conditions put a most memorable stamp on our trip. Six friends (each complete with heavy overnight packs) and three dogs ventured out into the best part of Alaska- its wilderness.
The first four miles were sheer ice and it was essential everyone had ice cleats for traction or you can bet on sliding off the trail down the side of the mountain. I’m already a hazard to myself so spikes were a good “cheap” insurance policy. The trail was narrow and we followed each other in a single file fashion. We made frequent stops to load up on Cliff energy gel shots, kale bars and also rehydrated. We made certain to take in Alaska’s splendor and frozen beauty. The sun tried to peak through gray clouds and the 40 degree “winter” temperature made us all melt in our gear.
We started to see signs for other cabins along the way signaling we were close to our cabin. We all had instant peace of mind when our cabin came into view at the top of a small hill. We even struggled to climb this hill due to fatigue, the weight of our gear on our backs and the few inches of snow. It was a great night hanging out in the warm and cozy cabin. We made an epic meal fit for kings and queens, played games, drank and shared stories. We all had a late start in the morning packing up and minimizing as much weight as we could in our packs. The trek back to south trailhead was one we did not yet know we would always be able to reminisce.
An overnight snow accumulation of 14 inches had blanketed our well-paved trails from the day before. We thought we knew what was ahead of us. Lots of snow to plow through for 10 miles step by step. Right? Wrong. Well, this was the case for the first 2 miles back. At the two mile mark, there is a sign for Trout Lake Cabin. There had been another hiker who left the same morning from Trout Lake Cabin before us paving the way with a sled back in the direction we were heading. It was the best gift to our delegated trail lead and snow trailblazer. We caught up to the hiker in time and found this gentleman to be in a grim circumstance.
He had been traveling alone with his dog and they were both suffering from exhaustion and lack of motivation. We collaborated and traveled with him to the Bean Creek Trail which splits off from the main trail four miles from the south trailhead. We learned that the Bean Creek Trail was a mile and a half shorter than our trail. The hiker offered to take us to our vehicles if we finished the hike with him to ensure his safety. After trudging through the knee-high snow and being drenched in a wintery mix, we decided it sounded far better to be dryer and warmer taking the Bean Creek Trail which would get us out of the backcountry a couple hours faster and we would be helping out the hiker.
The Bean Creek Trail had its perks; it was wider and flatter with less ice. We did, however encounter a mass of sled dogs harnessed to an ATV training for the upcoming Iditarod in Anchorage. These dogs had attacked the hiker’s dog and snarled at ours. After a few more hours of enduring slush and sleet we were finally finished with the hike. We all day dreamed of celebratory beers and hot showers. It was a hike out of the ordinary, but that’s what makes life exciting. Victory is ours!