Back in November, I did one of my most memorable hikes of all time – I summited Eagle River’s Mt. Baldy in the dark with a group of friends under the northern lights, and it was also my 52nd hike of the year! I loved my experience climbing Baldy in the dark, even though I wasn’t able to see the view from the top. Despite the great time I had up there I haven’t hiked this trail since that night.
This weekend, I was tired from working long hours but really needed a hike to clear my head. Plus the weather was absolutely fantastic. So we headed out to Baldy because we knew it was short and steep with great views that would be new to me. And what a difference some daylight makes when you’re at the top of a mountain!
I started this hike at a good pace and in good spirits, but the combination of long work days and semi sleepless nights due to stress instantly slowed me down as we made our way up the steep face of Baldy. I also couldn’t help but notice that this hike seemed a lot steeper and longer when you weren’t doing it in the dark. I guess there is a definite plus to doing it without being able to see how much further you had to go? I also noticed that with an entire winter’s worth of snow, it was pretty difficult to get up some of the steeper sections without feeling like I was going to slip right off the mountain. I followed the many footholds that had been carved into the trail by other hikers pushing their way up the mountain, but at some points I also had to use my hands to help get up. Pausing to catch my breath also gave me a chance to take in the gorgeous views of Eagle River, the valley, and even the Alaska Range and Denali in the distance!
My favorite feeling on earth is when you have been hiking up for a long time and then as you get to the top the views open up and you can see something you’ve never seen before. I literally gasped out loud when I crested the front of Baldy and saw the view of the Chugach Mountains spreading out behind the summit. It was hands down one of the best views I’ve seen from a mountain summit, and I loved that it came from a pretty short hike.
The temperature was pretty warm so I was just wearing thin tights and a thin shirt, but it was ridiculously windy at the top so I had to layer up instantly. We weren’t able to spend a ton of time at the summit because we started turning into popsicles, but we decided to hike down the backside trail so we could enjoy the views a bit longer. Plus the backside trail is significantly less steep, which made for an easier hike down.
We ended up making this hike a 4.5 mile loop with 1500 feet in elevation gain. I’m not sure why I haven’t hiked this one in the daytime before now, but it has officially made my list of favorite trails and I’m already looking forward to doing it again. With all of our extra sunlight I’m hoping to do this one after work a bunch of times this summer. I’m looking forward to seeing these views with lots of tundra instead of snow!
Have you ever re-hiked a trail and had a totally different experience? What is your most memorable hike ever?