When 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.
Suspended 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.
It'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).
We 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.
Technorati tags: hiking, Girdwood, Alaska, Alyeska, Winner Creek