Friday, June 19, 2015

Anniversary Backpacking Trip to Symphony Lakes

Eagle Lake
Last week we played hooky from work one day and went backpacking at Symphony Lakes for our anniversary. This area is literally out our front door in Eagle River (okay, we have a drive around the valley to get there) and an easy place to hike in to after work. The weather here has been abnormally hot and sunny and if there was ever a night to skip bringing a tent or shelter, this would have been it! Ryan wanted to try out our tent though since we've only used it once before, and the bugs were present, although not terrible, so it was good to have it.

We were surprised how many other people were up there backpacking in the middle of the week (as in we say 8 other people camped on the lake). The days are so long it doesn't cool off until very late and gets hot early early in the morning. While we were sitting around in our flip flops and shorts we kept saying "are we really in Alaska??"

On our second day we circumnavigated Eagle Lake and went over to Symphony for swim. Thank goodness there was a breeze or it would have been too hot for us!

Eating dinner at 9:30 at night

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Harp Mountain to Hanging Valley Hike

Ryan taking a break on the way up Harp Mountain, looking down into Hanging Valley and the South Fork of Eagle River

Ryan overlooking Hanging Valley
Looking up Eagle River from  Eagle's Overlook
Ryan conveniently got home from Akutan on a Friday so we have the weekend to have fun and for him to re-acclimated to regular life, warm weather, and green vegetation. For his first full day home he picked a hike we've wanted to do for some time - Harp Mountain in the South Fork of Eagle River. For some extra fun (and training for our upcoming backpacking trip in Katmai), we traversed from Harp to Eagle's Overlook, then dropped down into Hanging Valley and followed the trail out. I haven't measured the distance yet, but it took us about seven hours.

The weather was absolutely perfect with the exception of a strong wind, but on the other hand that kept it from being too hot for these Alaskans. The only people we saw were during our climb up Harp - after that we didn't see a single person (partially because much of our route was off-trail). We had 360 degree views of the Chugach Range. The Alaska Range, Denali, and Foraker were also all clear, as was the far side of Cook Inlet. Such fantastic views so close to home!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Breaking in New Hiking Boots

Testing the waterproofness

I am breaking in a new pair of hiking boots before our Katmai trip at the end of the month. Why would I wait until only three weeks before our trip to get new hiking boots, you might ask? Well, there is an actual story.

I have wide feet, as you may know. A few years ago I found that Lowa made a wide boot that actually fit my feet (for the most part), and I bought a pair (and had them stretched in the width so that they fit better). They were leather with GoreTex and when I first used them they were perfectly waterproof. They were also very light weight and in general, I really liked them, as much as someone with double E feet can ever like a stiff boot. But, the waterproofness didn't last long and the stitching started to come apart. Despite those things, the soles still have A LOT of life left in them. I considered just getting a new pair, but I was afraid the same thing would happen again.

As far as I have found, there are only two brands that make a women's wide hiking boot, at least a serious hiking boot: Vasque and Lowa. Vasque makes two styles - I have tried them both and they are decidedly too narrow. Every few months I google the terms "women's wide hiking boot" in the hopes that someone has started to make a new one. After years of searching, I found that Lowa is indeed making a new women's wide boot, one that's even sturdier. Lowa didn't actually have any in stock though. I spent a couple of days searching high and low on the internet and finally found an online store in Oregon that had exactly one pair in my size/width.

I am very hopeful that these boots are going to work out for me. As far as I can tell the material looks much more likely to stay waterproof over time than my old boots. They are very tight in the toe box, but one can only expect so much from a stiff boot. When I hiked the Mt. Magnificent Trail with them last weekend I only got one tiny blister which isn't bad at all. Let's hope it only gets better from there!