It was cold -like single digits cold- but otherwise a fairweather winter day in southcentral Alaska. The riverside portion of the trail was flat and fast with enough trees to block the bone chilling breeze that was following the path of the river through the canyon. My partners in crime for the day, Bosco & Ray, and I made quick time through this part of the trail and were crossing over the South Fork Eagle River via a natural ice bridge before we knew it. After that, the trail begins to make slight, but continual elevation gains over the next mile until the final short climb to the falls overlook.
Once at the overlook, I made my way over the railing and down a rope to a steep, icy path that led to the bottom of the falls. At the end of the rope, but still 40 feet above the canyon floor, I started sliding down the steep ‘trail’ I was standing on. As soon as I got myself stopped, I dropped down onto my bum figuring I would eventually end up there anyways if I tried to proceed any further on the cliff. Knowing at this point, with the severity of the ice and coupled with the pitch and remaining height of the cliff I was traversing, that I wasn’t going to be able to do down this way any further, I sat there and took a few photos before heading back up to the overlook.
Bosco, who had been worried about my safety since I crawled over the railing, was impatiently waiting at the overlook for me to return. He was not impressed with my adventuring so close to such a cliff. I imagine he was giving me about the same look my own mother would if she had been there with me.
We meandered around the woods for a while, tackling some nearby geocaches, which took us down a side trail where my day was completely made (as if spending the day in the woods and seeing a stunning, half frozen over waterfall hadn’t already done that) when I walked down a quarter mile corridor of beautifully decorated Christmas trees alongside the trail.
Around this time we discovered a side path through the woods along the South Fork that seemed to be going back in the direction of the falls. Still wanting to get some pictures from the bottom, we followed this random trail through the woods and were happily surprised when we found ourselves standing at the bottom of the falls.
I stopped here for a long while, sitting to finish off my lunch I had packed along with me, take some pictures, and relax for a bit before heading back into the woods after a few more nearby geocaches. All in all we turned a 6 mile round trip hike into nearly 10 and a half miles. The short winter sun had long set when we made it back to the car so I readily welcomed the warmth of the little Subaru as we drove back to Anchorage. I can’t always say I love living in Anchorage, Alaska, but today was one of those days that made up for all the darkness we endure.