Hiking the South Fork Valley Trail
As Alaskans, we understand the weather here doesn't always cooperate. Some stretches are nothing but sunshine, while others are more dreary, filled with rain and wind. Nevertheless, on those coveted days when the sun is shining, we must take advantage, get outside, and enjoy what the land of the Midnight Sun has to offer. Anchorage, in particular, is teeming with outdoor opportunities for people of all levels of experience. In a place with such natural beauty, it is no surprise that hiking is a popular activity among locals and visitors. There are countless trails here that allow the hiker to explore wild Alaska.
On a recent gorgeous afternoon, two friends and I decided to hit the trail and embark on a hike. We knew we wanted to do the South Fork Valley Trail, as it was one we had previously attempted, yet could not finish due to excessive snow blocking the way. This time, however, it was late enough in the Spring to where most of the snow had melted. The trail itself is located off Highland Road, which is the Glenn Highway exit just before reaching Eagle River, and is about 20 minutes north of Anchorage. It is somewhat off the beaten path, which means less people, and hey, the parking is free. The hike itself is relatively long, yet not difficult. It culminates at the idyllic Eagle and Symphony Lakes, which are about 5 miles away from the trailhead. There isn't much elevation change, and it took about 6 hours or so to complete at a moderate pace. I personally prefer hikes that end at a serene lake, waterfall, etc. as it is a good stopping point, and it's nice to relax and have a picnic before hiking back.
With hiking boots strapped on and walking stick in hand, our expedition began. The trail got us into the wilderness of the Chugach Mountains, and consisted of forests, alpine meadows, and small brooks. We also traversed over a field of small boulders before getting to our destination. The lakes themselves were spectacular, although we weren't sure which lake was which. One was vibrantly blueish green and fed from a glacier, while the other was darker in color, and still mostly covered by brittle ice. They were barely a stone's throw apart, and made a fine setting for a short rest and food break. We were amazed at how hot the day was, and had a reminder in the form of a light sun burn. As we were hiking back, we encountered a seagull who must've had her nest close to the trail because she began squawking and dive bombing us in panicked desperation. Unfortunately, the only other wildlife we ran into was a few ptarmigan (the Alaska state bird), which, for the record, make the most bizarre clucking noise. In all, it was fulfilling to spend a warm May afternoon in such a beautiful location. Alaskan residents can sometimes take the scenery here for granted, but days like these remind us there is no place like Alaska in the summertime. Now it's on to the next adventure.