Monday, July 02, 2007

Winner Creek Trail: Best Hike in Alaska

Winner Creek Trail, AlaskaWhen Andrew and I celebrated our anniversary two weeks ago by visiting Girdwood and staying at the Alyeska Prince we hiked the Winner Creek Trail and it just may be the greatest hike on the planet. The well-kept path begins behind the hotel at the base of the ski lift tram and winds through the spruce forest to catch up with Winner Creek.

After 2.5 miles the trail crosses the creek in a narrow gorge where the water pounds over rocks and throws a mist over the bridge before swirling in a deep opaque pool surrounded by cliffs and overhanging trees. But beyond the beautiful creek and pristine woodlands the coolest, best, (dare I say "awesomest"?--I never use that word in any form so it definitely means something here) part of the hike is the hand tram.

Waterfall at Winner CreekSuspended by ropes and pulleys 200 feet above the creek is a steel cage that traverses the distance between the cliffs where hikers can haul themselves from one side to the other.

Andrew and I climbed in (the scariest part) and pulled ourselves across the ravine all the time thinking we deserved a spot on the Amazing Race for our death-defying adventure. At least it seemed pretty adventurous for this middle-aged married couple who typically get to bed by 10:30 pm. And by the way do you like my red fleece hat? Anytime I'm doing something outdoor-sy I'm wearing it--night or day--and it keeps my head and ears perfectly toasty.

Hand Tram at Winner CreekIt's not too hard to pull yourself across, when you first get in gravity does most of the work as you glide out over the water with the downward droop of the ropes--fast enough to make your heart beat a bit. Then the upward slope of the ropes slows you down and you have to really put some muscle into it (don't pinch your fingers).

There's room for two adults in the cage, with a posted weight limit of 400 pounds--so watch what you eat at breakfast--and you can see the water swirling below through the grating under your feet. Once across, if we'd continued for a few more miles the trail meets up with the Crow Creek Trail and from there it's twenty-something miles over the pass to Eagle River (if you're feeling like a hike that'll make you sweat).

Shoe in the WoodsWe weren't into that kind of hike so we turned around and walked back to the hotel before checking out and heading back to Anchorage but both agreed it was the coolest hike we'd ever done.
As a parting note we saw this cross-country ski boot along the trail and wondered how it got there. If you think about it, there aren't many scenarios where one would abandon one's ski boot. Any guesses? I should offer a prize to whoever can write the best short story in 250 words or less to explain the finding.

And finally, here's the video footage from crossing in the hand tram. If you ever come this way, this is a hike to put on the list of things to do.




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39 comments:

la bellina mammina said...

ALaska is surely on our list - planning to visit within 5 years, so thanks for sharing this...I'm already taking notes!

Robin said...

That looks AMAZING!

iamyuva said...

Fab.. whatz more pleasent than up-close and personal with nature.

Alaska is my travel radar. Hope its in (not so distance)future... when planning my trip, sure to reach your for advice.

Katya said...

Michelle, what a fabulous adventure! I have said over and over, I am going to go to Alaska (again!) I was there in 1971. My brother was stationed there in the Air Force (Anchorage...he lived on Mountain View Drive). I was there for 1 month and that was no nearly long enough. Our neighbors drove to Alaska last summer...their dream vacation, and as I watched their footage of the trip, I wanted so much to be there! Thanks so much for sharing! I will certainly be keeping my eye out for more Alaska adventures!!!!

Corrie said...

Dig that red hat, and the scenery is amazing.

I can almost smell that water.

dcrmom said...

Beautiful!!!

AuthorMomWith Dogs said...

Wow! Pretty spectacular!

Trixie said...

Oooooooo, I'm scared just watching you cross! The scenery is just beautiful, though. The hat comes off pretty cool too.

Trixie

Inga said...

Wow, what beautiful pictures! Your blog is really a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for posting

Heather said...

What a great video! Nice to put a voice to the face!

Daisy said...

Incredible. You'll have this memory forever. Maybe you can take your kids on it when they're teens, just to keep them humble.

Damselfly said...

So jealous! It looks amazing. So do you!

janet said...

Wow great adventure! Alaska is high on our list of places to visit (before I get to old)!

Not much for writing contests but did you look in the boot? Maybe there was a surprise in it? :)

Marie N. said...

That looks like so much fun! I'm so glad youposted about it.

J Fife said...

Oh, to hike in Alaska... You are living a great wish of my mine.

My mind is churning with scenarios that could possibly lead to the ditching of a ski boot. Somehow, I know Sasquatch is involved.

Amy W said...

Thanks for giving us a visual on your hike, looks great.

Heffalump said...

I always wonder when I see a single abandoned shoe on the side of the road. A ski boot is even more of a mystery!
I don't think I could handle the tram. I have a heights thing going on. I would get stuck in the middle and the next set of hikers would find me either in hysterics or dead because I could never get across.

Jen M. said...

Wow - how beautiful!!!!

Ally Bean said...

Wow. So pretty-- the forest and your hat, of course. Seems like a very wild and wooly adventure to me, a suburbanite.

SusieJ said...

Ahhhh, this looks nice!!! So refreshing.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

you are trying to woo me to Alaska.

Susan said...

Do you know that in this photo you look just like the actress who played Donna, Josh's secretary, on The West Wing. Just thought I'd mention it. Your photos really make me want to see Alaska. They're striking.

Cathy said...

We saw a bear at Alyeska (in the parking lot!) last summer so I'm a little nervous about hiking this trail. Did you see any bears or fresh scat?

Looks amazing--wondering if we go how we can get all 5 of us across (2 adults, a teen and 2 youngins).

The video clip is great--thanks!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I wish I looked that good in a red fleece cap.

The ski boot was left by Cindy, the modern day Cinderella who was having one of her very bad days.

Scribbit said...

No, we didn't see any evidence of bears, and trust me Andrew looked. He's really nervous about them (don't blame him really).

We made lots of noise going through :)

And ferrying everyone across reminds me of that brain teaser where you have to get a fox, a chicken and a bag of feed across a river.

my4kids said...

Looks like a great hike! I have to say though the height from the tram may be to much for me! I'm afraid of heights...

Loralee Choate said...

I see I am not alone in my envy of how you look in a beenie cap. Usually when I wear one people think I'm homeless or out on a day pass from an institution.

Coach J said...

Thanks for shelling out the info. You may remember Alaska is in the running for the great 15th anniversary trip! :)

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful trail! Alaska is on my places to go list at the very top. I hope I make it there sooner than later.

teeth bleaching

Sandy said...

That hand tram is awesome! We don't have those in Minnesota.

The water and scenery look fantastic! You are indeed in God's country up there.

K T Cat said...

Wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing them with us!

Morning Glory said...

Oh my, that makes my stomach hurt! I'm not sure I could do that one.

Val said...

How bad were the mosquitos?

Scribbit said...

Not bad. Well, first we started around 8:30 am, so they weren't bad yet, and I sprayed with bug juice which is standard procedure of course. Plus I kept moving so they'd have had to be super sonic to have caught me but if I stopped and took pictures for very long they'd get interested.

Carolanne said...

I've got a friend, a pw, who lives in Girdwood. She's told me about that hike before so it was great to see photos of it and hear what you had to say, too!

DS Writer said...

looks like a lot of fun.

Mimi's Toes said...

I just came across your blog..My son and his wife went to Alaska on their honeymoon 2 years ago. They can't wait to go back. I want to take the Alaskian cruise. Great photos...

Johanna_M said...

Hey, we are looking at doing that hike for a blue berry picking adventure in late August! Talk it up, will you? I hope that we get more than just the berry pickers out there, but we shall see!

kim white said...

I went to Alaska and I loved it!!! Awesome pics, can't wait to visit again.