Post by Corrine
“This is incredible.”
I whispered to myself as I gained the ridge and saw the Alaska Range out in its full glory. Overcome with joy, I couldn’t keep it inside.
“This is amazing!”
I shouted. I yelled. I twirled. I burst out in song. I didn’t care that I was alone and celebrating by myself. The world can be an incredible place. The evening was warm and sunny. I was surrounded by the beauty of nature. Life just couldn’t get any better. I was so glad I had decided to do this quick getaway.
My spot of pure joy was a high point along the Chena Dome Trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area. I had mountain biked to the Upper Angel Creek Public Use Cabin and then hiked a trail to the high point. And it truly was a high point.
A Needed Dose of Nature
I had been down after a long, busy week at work. Lots of new, complex patients. Other patients needing to be fit into the schedule after being hospitalized. Increasing COVID cases. So many phone messages. And on top of all that, my clinical assistant had put in his two-week notice and there wasn’t a plan yet for who would be helping me. I had already missed my Wednesday night fast-paced WOW ride because of work. I was ready for a break. The weather forecast looked good, so I decided to get out. Being physically active in nature rejuvenates my spirit, and I needed that.
I didn’t want anything too epic, as I’m considering doing the Hayes 460 bikepacking race next weekend. I looked online and found that the Upper Angel Creek Cabin was available Friday night. Perfect! Just a fun 10-mile ride to a cabin. Eric and I had done the trail several times as an out-and-back, but we had never spent the night. Eric had other plans, so it would be a solo Sub 24-hour Overnight (S24O) micro-adventure for me.
|Upper Angel Creek Cabin
I don’t have office hours on Friday, so in the morning I packed, got some chores done, and caught up on patient messages. I was on the road by early afternoon and at the trailhead about an hour later.
A Nice Ride to the Cabin
The Angel Creek Hillside Trail is in very good shape. This 10-mile motorized, multi-use trail was put in a several years ago to provide year-round access to the upper and lower Angel Creek cabins, which had only been accessible via a boggy winter trail. The hillside trail starts with a two-mile climb, but the grades are not bad. The entire trail has a few rocky areas and three stream crossings, but it’s all very doable on a loaded bike.
|One of the rockier sections
I made a quick stop at the newer and bigger Lower Angel Creek Cabin, and then continued to the upper cabin. I managed to keep my feet dry on the stream crossings although I did walk, rock hopping, across two of them. (I tried to ride all three on the way out but failed and got wet feet!)
|Lower Angel Creek Cabin
I arrived at the cabin at 5 PM, greeted by a dead grouse on the deck. It must have recently flown into the window. I hoped it wasn’t an omen! I quickly tossed it as far as I could. I looked for it the next morning and couldn’t find it, so it probably made a nice meal for some animal.
|Newly dead baby grouse awaited me at the cabin
A Post-Bike Hike
I unpacked my bags, ate half of my cold dinner, and then decided to hike up the steep trail behind the cabin. I knew it connected with the Chena Dome Trail but had never been up it. I decided I would hike uphill for an hour and see what I could see.
The trail was steep, but I stopped often to graze on blueberries and take photos. The trail starts as an ATV trail but soon turns into a narrow foot trail, and I had to cross a few rocky areas before I came to the intersection with the Chena Dome Trail.
|Blueberries and cranberries galore - cranberries not quite ripe yet
|One of the rocky sections I had to cross
My hour wasn’t up, so I kept ascending. At the next level spot, I looked over and that’s when I whispered and then yelled. The view of the Alaska Range was incredible. I don’t remember anybody ever mentioning that view up here. I really lucked out with the weather. No haze or smoke, no wind or fog, and even the mosquitos weren’t too bad. I felt so alive and full of joy. I saw a high point a little further up the trail and decided to go for that, even though my hour was over. I still had plenty of daylight – one of the benefits of summer hiking in Alaska.
Back at the cabin I ate the rest of my dinner and then it was time for bed. I got up early the next morning, had a hot breakfast, loaded up my bike and headed back to the trailhead. The bike out was just as pleasant as the bike in, except for the wet feet, and I was back at my car by 9:30 AM.
|I stepped down in the middle of biking this fairly easy crossing
|The Trails Challenge sign is 4 miles in on the Angel Creek Hillside Trail at a nice overlook
A Quick Visit Then Home
Since it was still early, I decided to visit friends camped at Olnes Pond for the weekend. I wanted to say hi as two of them – Cathy and Martha – were celebrating birthdays. When I got to their campsite, the only person there was Kate, Cathy’s spouse. She said the others were out biking. I put on my soggy socks and shoes, got on my bike and went searching. I found them at the pipeline, and we all biked back together, discussing birthdays and aging and staying active. I joined them for lunch before heading out.
|The birthday girls, Cathy, 55 years young on the left and Martha, 62 on the right. These women rock!
I arrived home, less than 24 hours from when I had left, another S24O in the books. Even short jaunts out from home can be rejuvenating. Bring on the work week. I’m ready!
|Strava route into the cabin with a stop at the lower cabin