This past weekend, the group did a hike of the Winner Creek trail in Girdwood. The trail starts just above the tram at Alyeska ski resort and ends just below Crow Creek Mines at Crow Creek Road. I love this trail. It's one I always enjoy hiking (I snowshoed it twice during this past winter). The area is nothing like any other hiking area around Anchorage. The Girdwood Valley is part of a temperate boreal rain forest. The plants there are more like the ones I'm used to seeing in Virginia. There are huge ferns, moss covered trees, and long moss hanging from the branches of the canopy overhead like the Spanish moss I'm accustomed to seeing in the southern states of the lower 48.
The trail leads to a foot bridge over one gorge and a hand tram over another. The waters that rush through these gorges are glacial melt water. When we were there, the water was rushing so quickly that I ended up with a mist of water on my camera lens while I was taking pictures. The water views are gorgeous. During the hike to the bridge, more water views can be seen off to the right of the trail at different points, through the trees. There is also a wide foot bridge along the trail off to the right that leads to some cabin ruins and more spectacular views of the water. We hiked part way up the trail to the ruins, but decided to save that side-hike for another day and turned around half way up. Another side hike we'll do later leads to a one-man gold panning camp. One of the girls on the hike showed us a path that lead to a rope down a very steep path that took hikers to the water level of the second gorge. At the bottom of that trail is a rustic gold panning camp. We'll be heading back in a few weeks to check out that camp. Maybe we'll try our hand at panning for gold too!
The difficulty level of the trail makes hiking Winner Creek trail a winner. It's not a difficult trail at all, it's relatively incline free (though parts can be steep and slippery), so people of all activity levels can enjoy hiking it. The tourists go on paid tours to do the trail and pay upwards of $120 a piece to take the tram ride at Alyeska and hike to the foot bridge over the first gorge. All we paid for was gas to get there! Well ok, we had dinner at Chair Five restaurant after the hike too (which in my opinion is a must if you go to Girdwood).
Chair Five is a fun little restaurant located near the post office just off the main road into Girdwood. They've got amazing pizza, terrific burgers, appetizers that beg to be main entrees, and the beer really hits the spot after a hike. The locals of Girdwood hang out there, and there are bound to be some pretty interesting characters back near the pool tables, sitting at the bar.
It was a beautiful Alaskan spring day. The temperature was great, the bug level was low, and the company was awesome. There wasn't much snow left on the trail at all, and it was relatively mud and muck free on the path. There are also sections of wood blanked bridges over parts of the trail that are anticipated to be the most muddy which is really nice (beats having to traverse mud like we've had to on the past couple of hikes I've done).