Hiking the Crow Pass National Historic Trail
It gets dark around 7:30pm now. I’m packing, trying to get everything ready for tomorrow’s hike. I’m going to camp at Eagle River to ensure that I get an early start. If I can get there before the sunsets, I’ll be able to hike a mile or two and make tomorrow a little shorter. I’m not to worried about the distance, but running out of day light is a real possibility.
I pick up Freija. She’s a bundle of energy and Tyler told me to take her any time I go out. She’s a fun dog, and reminds me of Lucy in so many ways. Lucy, hiked the Appalachian Trail with me and passed away before I left for Alaska.
I make it to the Eagle River Nature Center around 6:45pm. Maybe the sun actually sets at 7, it sure is dark. I pack the dogs and leash them together. Freija takes off and Bobby puts on the breaks! His collar is coming over his ears and his paws are skidding in the gravel. He looks up at me in his braked hunch. “Dad! What kind of monster have you hooked me too!” Leashing them together will not work. I separate them. Bobby walks behind me, and Freija pulls with all her might.
I’m trying to get out of the main public area before I set up camp. I’m walking by headlamp, but the trail is wide and easy to follow so this isn’t a problem. About a mile in, I unleash the dogs. Bobby, stays right by my side. Freija takes off like a rocket, gets out of sight, and sprints back. She repeats this process all the way to Echo Bend where we make camp.
We’ve hiked about 3 miles, which means we have somewhere between 15-17miles tomorrow. That’s a good number. Normally people hike the opposite way on the trail. It’s considerably easier, because it is mostly downhill. Apart from the start.
Tonight is my first real night in a bivy, I usually hammock or tent. I set up a small canopy covering the upper half of my body and settle in on some leaves just up hill from Eagle River. The dogs run-a-muck. Bobby is actually playing with Freija. Usually he gives her the “Don’t come near me” teeth. Freija has never understood this, she thinks it means “lick these pearly whites”.
I settle into the bivy. The canopy is just about 2 feet above my head. I’m using it primarily to cover my gear, the dogs, and my face. The dogs have ran off, and I call for them to get ready for bed. “Bobby! Lucy!” Whoa! “I mean….Freija.” That was weird, kind of makes me miss Loose. I bet I did that 4 or 5 times.
That night, Bobby squeezed into the bivy with me. It was very tight. And Freija, well she slept right by my head, almost on top. Every time I opened the bivy she would kiss my face profusely. She later decided to move on top of the canopy flattening it to the ground. She made sure my head wasn’t under it to so she wouldn’t miss any nuzzle opportunities.
The sun rose at 9:00am. I slept great! Way better than expected. We pack our things and start hiking. The trail winds along side the river and up through the valley. Even without a trail it would be hard to get lost, but not impossible. The mountains are like giant walls, and if you’re walking up any of them you’re definitely going the wrong way.It’s much drier than the Stampede Trail and primitive campsites are littered through out the valley.
We come to a creek bed. I cross a log bridge with a rope hand rail. I grab the rope and take a few steps. It’s slow motion…..thump!!! Can I change that? The rope is just posing as a hand rail. A cruel joke. I’m lying on my back. My feet are still on the logs above my head. The water is just inches away. The rope is still in my hand and stretched like a bow string. I let it go and try to flip over without getting wet. I feel like a turtle and have learned a valuable lesson. Don’t trust the rope. I knew better than to lean on it anyways, but I wanted to test it and it failed miserably. After I got to my feet and the dogs had secretly shared in a good laugh. I crossed the bride without the rope. I try to laugh off those situations. They sure do make for funny stories.
I find myself looking up at the snow covered mountains. Waterfalls cascade down them and create creeks that add to the river.
Two Golden Eagles are feeding in the river bed. I can see the Eagle River Glacier up ahead, near the glacier is where we will cross the river and then head up the pass. There are posts marking the crossing area. This is really nice, and I’m in luck. The river is very low and the water is only about a 1.5 feet deep making for an easy ford. This crossing can make or break the trail, so make sure you do some research before you go. I hear it can get pretty high.
The trail was beautiful before, but honestly this is where it gets good! You can see the snow covered pass in the distance. I try not to look to much. It seems so far away, and I’m looking forward to a good meal and a night in the cabin.
I’ve developed a pretty good blister on my foot but I’m not about to look at it. If you look, you’ll stop. And then if you try to keep going, you’ll imagine the damage is way worse than it really is. Mental games. It’s best to push through and access the damage at the end of the day. At least that’s what I think, but don’t take that as advice.
Bobby crosses Raven Gorge Bridge like a champ. You can see through the grates and I imagine that scared Freija a little, but I coaxed her to come and she did slowly but surely.
The trail continues up the mountain and becomes snow covered. It feels epic. We just crossed a bridge over a huge waterfall! There is another canyon on the right, winding down the mountain. I can see Raven Glacier and I’m excited about getting to Crow Pass Cabin. Wait until you see it and you’ll know why!
Tyler and Mike met me at the cabin that night. They are going back country snowboarding tomorrow. It’s not super good, but they can get a few runs in. The cabin is amazing. I’m already planning on when I can come again. There is a lake directly in front and the mountains surrounding it are…WOW! I can’t wait to go back country skiing here.
At 5am Bobby makes a high pitched “uh hmmm!” This means he wants something. Ugh!!! I climb out of my warm bag and step onto the cold floor. I open the cabin door to let him out. He’s eaten plenty maybe he’s thirsty, maybe he needs to potty. But 2 minutes later…”Uh hmmm!” I get up and open the door. He comes in and we go back to bed. “Uh hmmm!” “What do you need?!?!” I say twitching. Turns out he was thirsty. The creek is right beside the cabin and guess who won’t drink out of it. I get up and put on my boots. That blister is real nice, about the size of a half dollar. I won’t be taking my boots off when I come back in. I put on the leash and walk bobby outside.
Don’t get water from the lake because it’s full of silt. If you walk about 100yds over there is a small creek that has crystal clear delicious water. Bobby takes a few sips and realizes his feet are cold! He looks at me…”Are you serious?!” I give him a disappointed scowl. “Get u drink!” A few more sips and grunt, grunt, grunt. “Alright” I say and take him inside. Luckily that was enough to appease him. I lay on the sleeping bag with my boots on and half sleep until 9.
It’s only about 2 miles down to the car and these last miles are fantastic. I see my first snow white ptarmigans. They really do disappear in the snow. If they were to close their skittle sized eyes you wouldn’t be able to see them at all.
At the bottom of the mountain I had out awards to the dogs. I think Bobby is disappointed with his. Don’t worry they didn’t eat them, I did :)
We are all exhausted. Even Freija wants to rest.
If you want more information on hiking the crow pass trail click here.