Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hidden Lake, Alaska

Skilak Lake, AlaskaLast month Andrew and the boys went camping at Hidden Lake, unlucky for them we've had a rather gloomy, rainy, cold spring this year (we're all wondering if we're ever going to get summer judging from the weather we've had) but did that stop them? Nope. They grabbed the Gortex and headed for the hills and had a great time.

If you haven't seen Hidden Lake (and why would you--it's hidden, right?) it's about two hours south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula and is one of the nicest campgrounds down that way. The facilities are good (that's the nice way to say the outhouses aren't are as barbaric as they could be, though you know it's all relative--there certainly isn't anyone handing you a perfumed towel when you walk out the door or anything) the camp ground is well-maintained and there are nice trails down the road for a little hiking--it's just a fun place to get away from it all. And since you're so hidden no one will even know you're there.

Hidden Lake, AlaskaWhen the guys went this last time they wanted to hike the 4-mile Skilak Overlook Trail near Skilak (skee-lack) Lake. That's a place that's always fascinated me.

You see Skilak is a glacial lake--as are many of the lakes around here--which means that it's fed by glaciers (pardon me if that's completely obvious, but if you live in Arizona glacial lakes may not be something you encounter every day). Anyway, the glacial water makes the color funny, kind of a blue-green opaque that holds its own rather than a translucent mirror of the mountains and sky you get with regular lakes. Something to do with the suspended glacial silt in the water I believe.

Anyway, Skilak is also very long--about 15 miles--and it's normal for sudden storms to toss up and make things rather dodgy for anyone hanging about in a boat. And then there's the temperature. Even in summer the glacial water is hardly above freezing, fall in and you'd have only a minute or two before hypothermia got you.

Skilak Lake, AlaskaYears ago we went camping at Skilak for an Independence Day treat--my first trip there--and I remember standing at the water's edge with that funny color staring at me under the heavy clouds and everything felt so quiet and cold and ominous. The kind of scene where if you were watching a movie you'd just know that something bad was about to happen--all it lacked was the mournfully edgy music in the background and the ski-masked marauder lurking in the bushes.

My Dad came up behind me about that time and started telling me how over the years so many people had lost their lives on the lake, that it attracted weekend boaters who weren't prepared for the problems that could occur. Just about the time he finished his story we saw a man and a couple kids pushing off from the shore in a little outboard-powered aluminum skiff, none of them wearing life jackets. I tell you it was just like a movie and for some reason it made an impression on me, if I'd have read later that their boat had capsized and they'd all drown it wouldn't have surprised me, it was that kind of a feeling.

Unfortunately as wonderful as Alaska is there are a lot of dangerous things and too often people don't respect nature enough to remember that. Skilak fascinates me as an example of what you can expect in this crazy place--beautiful but dangerous.

But to end on a lighter note, my men stayed out of the water and hiked quite a bit of the two miles in before the boys decided that the "moderate hike" they'd read about was anything but. Heavy brush and spring mud made it slow going and pretty soon the boys were ready to die and were begging to turn back. I suppose it didn't help that they'd all been up late the night before giggling around the fire and eating so many marshmallows that their insides had probably liquefied to marshmallow jelly. So they cut things short and came back tired, hungry, wet and muddy.

When they walked in the door and I asked David and Spencer how the trip had been I got a "Great" followed by instant tears. That just means they had a good time.

Happy but exhausted--Skilak Lake conquers again.


Congratulations to Barbara for winning The Fine Art of Family necklace from last Saturday's giveaway and to Stephanie at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood for winning the Adventure Suit and Oaki Zip Rain Boots from Outdoor Adventure Kid Company. Good stuff!

Sponsored by: Shabby Apple--Elegant dresses for women and girls and more!

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Poetikat said...

This is a great post. What I know of Alaska only comes from films and tv (the latest being Into the Wild, which was brilliant and did give me a real sense of the scope and might of the region).

Your post both entertained and enlightened me. I have to say though, that when you were describing the hidden menace you sensed on your earlier visit and then you said, "My Dad came up behind me" I expected you to say that he had made you jump. (That's what my dad used to do.

I was glad to read that the family who ventured out did not meet with misfortune.

Your use of the word "dodgy" in that context leads me to believe that there is a Brit lurking in there somewhere. Am I correct?


Stephanie said...

The glacial fed lakes are simply beautiful.

Thanks for picking my name for the gear. You know this family will put it to use! :)

MoziEsmé said...

Beautiful lake!

Reminds me of the "torture" hikes my dad used to "make" us take. We hated every minute of it (except the chocolate) but felt wonderful when it was over. And it made for terrific memories later.

Doll CLothes Gal said...

What fabulous scenery. Our daughter is off for a great rip camping in the National Parks out west. I'm going to get her to read this post first.

perilloparodies said...

cool things to learn about Alaska... thanks for trekking us around with you. and, Congrats, ladies, for your wins of the cool prizes. have a great day.

Jennifer said...

I love those moments when you can sense the sort of music that would be playing over the whole scene you are witnessing.

Your description was so perfect I could imagine the name of the movie it could be in and hear the music :)But I would never see it....too scary!!

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

again you taunt me about the the last frontier. It just makes me want to get out and do more stuff like that here. I remember the glacier fed lakes too...I would dunk my water bottle and drink until my stomach hurt it was that full.

Janet said...

Scott's sister and her husband (Da Wizard) just got back from 2 weeks in Alaska. The blue glacier pictures were fascinating, but they didn't get to Skilak. Denali, Juneau, Anchorage. I forget where else. He'll be posting pictures to his blog soon.

Yeah, I really did expect to hear about someone pushing you in as you were standing on the edge.

Jenna Consolo said...

Great post! I remember that odd color of the water in glacial lakes. When I was there I even videotaped it and my voice is commenting on the strange bluish-green color. But I LOVE Alaska! Dangerous, yes, but so beautiful!

Heather said...

I would love to visit Alaska just for the beauty and potential photos. But the danger scares me. Just last week a woman from MN was missing for a few days. She was lucky and was found.

Blessed said...

What a beautiful place.

It sounds like the boys had a great time!

Wild Squirrel said...

I hope we make it up that way some day. It's beautiful!

Motherhood for Dummies said...

oh fun! Maybe I should take Curtis down there.

Cuddle Cottage said...

Alaska sounds beautiful and dangerous and wonderful all rolled into one.

mesa para 4 said...

I dream about Alaska since I was a young girl, and when I met my husband it was a glad suprise that he himself dreamt about Alaska too.
At least once a month but pheraps more we talk about Alaska... we live in Portugal(Europe),we are portuguese (that´s way the misspleling) and every single year he says let´s go to Alaska, but I say no just because I am afraid to fly since my 2 childreen were born. I feel sad and I can´t fight against that fear.
So, I wan´t to THANK YOU for showing me my dream... Alaska

Jamie said...

Such pretty pics!

MiaKatia said...

Do you secretly work for the Alaska Board of Tourism? Every time I read one of your posts about Alaska I am just mesmerized and I want to come see all this beauty, albeit dangerous beauty.

Damselfly said...

I wanna go!

Bethiclaus said...

We've not visited Alaska, although it is my number one destination wish, a childhood in San Diego having jaded me about beach-ey vacations. Your description of the lake is exactly how I picture all of Alaska. Beautiful, but dangerous.

Flea said...

That's the best kind of adventure, when the children smile then cry. You just KNOW a good time was had by all.

CountessLaurie said...

Thank you for explaining glacial lakes. Way out here in Massachusetts, my first thought was that it had been created by a glacier, not that it was glacier fed. So, you are right, it may be obvious to some, but not all.

Thanks for the great blog. I continue to enjoy it!!

Sharlene said...

I can't wait to torture my kids with hike ins to glacier fed lakes. Sounds like so much fun!

SpokaneMama said...

join the club on the spring weather. apparently you are sending it to spokane after you are finished with it! LOL!

we are having our first full week of weather in the 80's! This weekend is going to be a record breaker apparently. Finally, since winter lasted through into the end of May!