Anyway, Friday morning, five of us packed up our gear and bikes, piled into two trucks, and departed Anchorage for Eklutna Lake, destination: Serenity Falls, roughly thirteen miles around to the far side of the lake.
|The view towards the far side of the|
lake, from about a mile in.
|Eric snaps a few photos with his iPhone while I'm doing|
the same with my Android
|And Pat catches up with us for a breather at the bridge|
Bold Airstrip is located at mile eight, on the far shore of the lake. Next to the airstrip is a small cabin that you can rent from the state park, and by the time we got that far, I was ready to drop my gear there and call it good. Lucky for me, however, Eric dug out his GPS and spent fifteen or twenty minutes searching for a geocache, which he found, so I got a chance to snarf down another Cliff Bar and recuperate for the final four mile ride. By the time I got back to my bike, Nate and Eric were already tiny dots on the trail, so I resumed by usual position in the middle of the pack, with Pat and Joel right on my heels.
Other than the ice pack just before reaching Bold Airstrip, most of the preceding eight miles had been pretty easy riding, with slight up- and down-hill sections surrounded by alpine forest. Spring in Alaska is my favorite time of year, with the promise of an entire summer stretching out before you. Everywhere you look, snow is melting, the grass is beginning to green and the trees began popping out buds as the sun begins to invite life back into the world. Best of all, the air is filled with a clean, soapy smell from the tree buds on the alders, willows and cottonwoods that share the woodlands with spruce and larch trees. At the airstrip, however, things changed, as the forest had apparently been ravaged by fire some time in the fairly recent past. Blackened husks of trees stood out against the green mountains on each side of the valley, looking like charred skeletons with their empty branches clawing at the sky. Yet even here, life was returning, claiming its stake on the fire-scarred forest. Already there were small willow and alder saplings, and I'd wager that soon mature willows and alders will obscure all evidence of the fire.
|The view from the bridge...|
|...and the view OF the bridge. That's Pat|
in the blue sweatshirt and white cap,
Eric next to him and Pat's son Joel on
the opposite side of the bridge.
Since Bold Airstrip, the trail had grown more and more rocky. It was still plenty wide enough for a car to drive, but whereas the lakeside trail was a smooth, packed gravel trail, the stretch between Bold and Serenity Falls was dirt with fist-sized boulders. As I commented to someone -- I don't remember who, exactly -- in the years since I had started riding motorcycles, my *bicycle* seat seemed to have become more firm while *my* seat had become less so :) Since my Diamonback only has a suspension on the front forks, I finally had to stop to let some air out of my tires to cushion the ride a bit. I don't know if it truly helped, but it at least seemed to take some of the edge off the ride.
Finally, we reached the Serenity Falls hut, and we were pleasantly surprised when we got there. I've stayed in Forest Service/State Park cabins before, but Serenity Falls is much, much nicer than any of the other cabins I've ever stayed in. The entire south-facing side of the cabin is covered in windows, showing off the falls and the Eklutna Glacier. The hut sleeps up to thirteen people, including three double-bunks. Half of the hut (the north side) is bunks. A wall separates the sleeping area from the main room, which is equipped with two wooden tables, two stainless steel counter tops for preparing food and a large wood stove. During the day, the south facing windows do a great job of keeping the hut warm; by night, the wood stove keeps the hut toasty. Once we arrived in the hut and dropped our packs, everyone immediately started preparing food. While everyone else was rehydrating freeze dried food or heating an MRE, I feasted on a monster-sized, double-cheese hamburger that I had grilled on my barbecue the night before. It had to be close to a half-pound of hamburger meat, and right then, there was no finer meal to be had anywhere on earth. What is it about camping that makes everything taste so GOOD?
|Left to right, Eric, Joel and Pat at one of the tables at|
The next morning, Pat and Eric hiked a little further up the trail towards the Eklutna Glacier while Joel, Nate and I started packing and cleaning up for the ride back home. Too soon, we were ready to go. The ride back was uneventful, and after two or three hours, we were back at the parking lot, where I had only three things on my mind: a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, a Mocha Frappe and a shower :) Normally, I'm not one for fast food, but after biking 27 miles round trip with a 40-50 pound pack (I didn't bother to weigh it), I was craving the calories to restock my depleted reserves.
While I've spent many, many weekends at Eklutna Lake in the twenty-some-odd years I've lived in Alaska, this is the first time I've ever gone back to Serenity Falls. I can guarantee it won't be the last. Even though it was still too early for spring to have truly arrived at 1200 feet of altitude, this was a breathtakingly beautiful place to spend a weekend. I can't imagine how gorgeous it must be when the trees are displaying all their glory and the falls -- cascades of blue ice this time of year -- are crashing down the mountainsides into the valley below. Oh yes, I'll be back to Serenity Falls again.
Information on Serenity Falls and other Eklutna public-use cabins available at http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins/anch.htm