A ten mile walk

Aug 8, 2015 | 1 comment

I’ve done it. I’ve successfully hiked all 18 trails on the east end of Denali this summer, saving the 9.5 mile Triple Lakes Trail for last. 
Vista from the first summit of the trail

I got a late morning start yesterday, catching the 9:30 bus to the trail head, and set off into the warm, sunny morning. Counting for steep elevation changes, lunch, and short breaks, I estimated I could average about 2 mph walking speed and make it to the end of the trail by 2:30-3pm. Thus, roughly every half hour, I could assume I had walked a mile if I didn’t stop to take pictures for too long.

The glacial erratics I camped under, earlier this summer!

The first mile went by quickly. Miles 2 and 3 were a bit harder, because they involved a steep climb to the top of the ridge line, perhaps 900′ up.

I have consistently found that the hardest part of a long hike is between miles 3 to 4, which seems kind of silly. It’s like my body and mind are protesting having to work so hard, and then they sort of accept the reality that we’re going to be walking for a long time and it all feels the same after that. Only when I got to about mile 8, did I start to feel the soreness in my muscles  again, and a couple blisters starting on my feet.

It was a perfect day. The sun was shining, the temperature soared into the low-70s, and a light breeze kept the mosquitoes away. I only passed a couple people in the beginning, and after that I was alone for the next 6-7 miles, with only my thoughts to keep me company. 
At first my mind wandered to wondering how long this would actually take; if I was hiking faster or slower than I thought; what it would be like to hike the PCT or the AT and try to cover twice this distance every day; and then to wishing my sister or friends were here to enjoy the scenery and wildlife and mushrooms and trees as much as I was. I love hiking alone, I really do. But there is also something to be said for having someone to share the experience with as well. I think you need a balance of both, and since I spent last week hiking with a friend, it was good to spend this weekend by myself and reflecting on life a little.
Boreal Chickadee

Fall is almost here, and there were tons of wild berries out. The raspberries are my favorite so far, because all the blueberries here are super tart right now. At one point I stopped to pick some raspberries though, and I made a flock of chickadees really mad. They burst up into the trees from the raspberry bush, startling me, and began chattering angrily from above.

Squirrel enjoying a big mushroom

The squirrels are enjoying the autumn harvest as well. With a plethora of mushrooms erupting from the ground, there were red squirrels everywhere eating their fill and shuttling the shrooms up into the trees to dry for later.

This little baby squirrel was my favorite. It had found a rose hip and did not want to put it down or move to higher ground when I approached, so it kind of just stood there looking adorable for a while, unsure of what to do.

The ear fluffs! Look at the ear fluffs!
The first of the Triple Lakes (which was actually Lake 3) came into view right around noon. In some ways, it felt as if I’d been hiking forever by that point, and in other ways it also came up much sooner than I’d expected. I think I was just tired and hungry. Having been walking for several hours by that point, I told the lake how pretty it was as I took its photo.
First view of the lakes
No sooner had I rounded the corner to continue on my way, that I realized there were two other women sitting right there eating their lunch, surprising the hell out of me. 
“OH! …hi!” I stammered. “You probably heard me talking to myself just now, didn’t you…”
“What? No, you’re good!” they reassured me, laughing. I still think they totally heard me talking to myself.
I wanted to make it to a nice viewpoint to eat my own lunch, but the further on the trail I walked after the first (3rd) lake, the more dense the brush became. Eventually I got so hungry I just sat myself down on a rock in the aspen forest and ate half the lunch I’d packed. I mean hey, someone’s got to appreciate the smaller views too, right? Why do the big vistas always get all the attention? Aspen forests are beautiful too. 

Not long after my first lunch break, I finally did make it down to a nice spot to relax by the last lake, so I ate the rest of my lunch there. There was a huge beaver dam and a few diving ducks swimming around, and the air felt as peaceful as it could be. I was thankful there were no other hikers around now, because it was nice to have this all to myself. By this point, I had kind of lost track of how many miles I’d gone, but assumed I must be around mile 7-8, with 2 or 3 more to go before I got to the road.

Beginnings of fall
Once I had rested by the lake, suddenly I noticed how much my feet hurt and how sore my legs were. I shouldn’t have stopped moving! In some ways I felt a little pathetic too — I should be able to do at least twice this distance by now, without feeling so tired. But alas.
I kept telling myself it was just a few more miles, another hour of hiking at most, but low and behold, I made it to the end of the trail within a half hour of leaving the last lake! I had made much better time than I thought, and found myself a mile ahead of where I assumed I was!
Highway bridge at the end of the trail
Triple Lakes Trail ends at the side of the highway just before the bridge that crosses the Nenana River. Therefore, hikers have the choice of A) hitchhiking back to the park, or B) catching a shuttle from the nearby hotel back to the park. Because I’m not totally comfortable with hitchhiking alone yet, I chose to cross the bridge and walk another half mile or so to the hotel. I got there just in time, exactly one minute before the shuttle was about to leave.
Of course, what took me 4 hours to hike only took about 20 minutes to drive, and so I found myself back home by 2:30pm, sore, tired, and happy.
Kinda my favorite shot from the hike

I’m pretty proud of myself for completing the whole trail. Not that I didn’t think I could do it, but it was certainly challenging at a few spots and I did consider going back a couple times before I reached the halfway point. But ultimately, that promise of satisfaction at the end pushed me on and the sense of accomplishment when I finished was absolutely worth it.

1 Comment

  1. trailsnet

    Hi Andrea,

    Beautiful pictures and great trail information. Please feel free to add your favorite trails to Trailsnet.com and, by all means, include a link back this fantastic website.

    Best Regards – Kevin from Trailsnet

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