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Independence Day Backpacking Trip

July 5, 2011

A few weeks ago I decided that for the long weekend I wanted to go on an overnight hiking trip at Eklutna Lake. Eklutna Lake is about 15 miles northeast of us, and despite hearing from friends how beautiful it is out there, I hadn’t actually been. I was doing some research and found out that there is an easy hiking path around the lake, and at mile 8.4 a “primitive campground”, and another “primitive campground” at mile 11. That was all I needed to know! 😉 Howdy was on call for the first half of the weekend, so we decided to go on Sunday, and return on Monday. It actually worked out really well and gave us time to make sure we had everything we needed for the trip. We turned down some party offers for the holiday, packed up our backpacks and the dogs, and headed out.

The weather on the initial hike wasn’t too bad. It was overcast and we went through a few patches of misty rain, which actually felt nice and cooled us off.

We ended up hiking 9.5 miles altogether before we reached the campground. We took one rest stop to give the dogs some water about halfway, but other than that we kept a steady pace of about 22-minute miles. Pretty quick when you consider that I had about 45lbs on my back and Howdy was carrying around 55-60lbs.

We were pretty tired when we reached the camping area, and I got to work making dinner while Howdy put up the tent. (Note: “making dinner” = boiling water and rehydrating dinner). We didn’t build a fire because we didn’t need one – it wasn’t cold, and we had our little camp stove with us. Right about the time we finished eating and cleaning up, the rain rolled in. We kind of joked about this, because when we went camping last summer, it rained pretty much the whole time. Maybe someday we’ll have nice weather while camping…

Since it was raining and we were exhausted anyway, I set up the thermarest and sleeping bags in the tent, then toweled off the dogs and brought them inside. Meanwhile Howdy stayed out in the rain a bit longer to hang our food and anything with any kind of scent (deodorant, sunscreen, toothpaste, dog food, etc…) into a tree about 40 yards away in case any bears came sniffing around during the night. We each had brought a book with us, so we read for a while before passing out around 9pm listening to the rain falling on the tent.

Because we went to bed so early, we were awake by 6am. We used the last of the water we brought with us to cook breakfast and make coffee. By the way – the “primitive campground” means that each site has a picnic table and a fire pit, and there is an outhouse building with toilet paper, so you don’t have to “go” in the woods.

After the caffeine started to kick in, we leashed up the dogs and went in search of a water source. We weren’t worried about finding water since we knew the lake wasn’t too far away, but we wanted to fill up our water bottles and Camelbaks before heading back.

We found the water off the second path we tried, and it was SO beautiful. Definitely made the whole hike and rain and waking up at 6am on July 4th totally worth it.

(Can you see Howdy getting water on the edge of the river on the far right side?)

We enjoyed taking it all in, and couldn’t get over how beautiful and peaceful it is back there. We were also a little surprised that we didn’t see any wildlife while we were at the river – especially considering how early in the morning it was. We spent about 45 minutes filtering water from the river and enjoying the views as the sun came up and the mist started to dissolve. Finally, we knew it was time to pack it up and head back to civilization.

The hiking path we followed to get out there can be shared by ATVs through some portions, and it’s possible get to the camping area by ATV as well as hiking, but there is no way to get there by car. And even if you take an ATV you still have to walk down to where we were… so really, the only way to get there is on foot. It’s such a cool experience to be able to put everything you need on your back, walk somewhere, set up a tent, feed yourself, purify drinking water from a stream, and then pack it all up and leave and it’s like you were never there. I really, really enjoyed it.

We walked back the way we came and were making very similar time to the day before – despite the fact that we were a little more tired and definitely more sore than we were on the way out. We took 3 breaks (10 minute breaks after every hour that we walked, including a stop for lunch).

The dogs did so great. They were exhausted by the end, but they were such little troopers for the whole thing. We ended up walking ~19 miles in exactly 24 hours. The last 3 miles before we got back to the truck it started pouring rain, which we really could have done without. It wasn’t cold rain, so I didn’t even stop to get my rain jacket and pants out of my bag. I just wanted to get back, so we pressed through it. Overall, the trip was great, but the last 3.5 miles in the rain sucked. We finally made it back to the car, picked up McDonald’s on the way home, and passed out on the couch for the rest of the evening after we unpacked the car and spread everything out in the garage to dry.

I ended up with some large blisters on my feet, but aside from my blisters, I am only sore in my shoulders. Howdy says he feels like he was run over by a truck. We are planning to do a backpacking trip along Crow Pass Trail later this summer – which is 26 miles. What this 19-mile trip taught us is that we have great equipment, but we need to get ourselves in better shape to carry so much weight for that many miles before we tackle that trip. 😛 And of course, Alaska is breathtaking – but we already knew that. 😉

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Lauren Coburn permalink
    July 5, 2011 6:08 pm

    mmm. love it! as always… your pictures are amazing. makes me SO excited! ;o) xxoo

  2. July 6, 2011 1:57 pm

    i am BEYOND jealous. i LOVE LOVE LOVE backpacking and it feels like its been a million years. and now that we moved to kansas, i think it will be a WHILE before we go again. LOVE the pictures 🙂

    • July 6, 2011 8:26 pm

      Thanks! Maybe you could drive to the Ozarks in Missouri – or to Colorado, depending on which side of the state you’re in? Of course, that probably requires a bit more logistically than our little trip 🙂

  3. Stephanie permalink
    July 6, 2011 7:42 pm

    Wow, your pictures are amazing! Looks like quite an adventure and kudos to you for making such a hike!

    • July 6, 2011 8:27 pm

      Thanks girl! I was just reading your blog last night and didn’t realize you would be so far along during your move!! Good luck on that adventure! 😉

  4. July 9, 2011 12:27 am

    oh man! how beautiful..

    except that i heard something about you hiking like ten miles. um


  5. July 17, 2011 2:46 am

    Superb! Generally I never read whole articles but the way you wrote this information is simply amazing and this kept my interest in reading and I enjoyed it.

  6. September 1, 2011 11:17 pm

    Wow! I like these pictures even better than the ones Ive already seen!


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