Every year I get more adventurous with the hiking choices that I make. The first few years in Alaska I only chose hikes that were easy and mostly flat. The next year I started hiking steep and long trails, and the next year I added in some backpacking trips and winter hiking. But no matter what I’ve hiked, I’ve always chosen to hike in perfect weather conditions when possible. I live in Alaska and can hike these trails whenever I want, so why not save an epic hike like Harding Ice Field for a sunny day when I can actually see the views? But as I become more comfortable out on the trails I’m starting to find that sometimes the appearance of not so great weather can lead to some really great hikes. Sure, I can think of many times where I was miserable due to the weather (a windy and freezing hike on a seemingly sunny and warm day on the Rabbit Lake Trail a few years ago comes to mind), but I also think about the time when we hiked up through the clouds on Bird Ridge and we saw sunshine and gorgeous views that no one at sea level got to see. Embracing bad weather days on the trail can be tough, but it can also lead to some really awesome moments.
On Sunday I woke up to yet another crazy windy day in Anchorage. It was drizzling and I could barely see the mountains out my back window, but I was dying to hike with one of my friends. We are both trying to get in shape for hiking season, so we wanted to go uphill but stay out of the wind as much as possible and we couldn’t think of anything that would get us both of those things. Normally I would have just cancelled due to weather and laid around all day in my pajamas, but instead we chose to drive out to Eklutna Lake to see if the Twin Peaks Trail was hikable. I wore fleece lined clothes and my Xtratuff in anticipation of heavy wind and rain and thick mud, and I had my rain jacket ready. On the drive out there we commented on the new snowfall at high elevations and how low the clouds were on the mountains. But as we pulled up to the trailhead, it looked completely snow free and it wasn’t even raining!
We started hiking uphill towards the first bench on the Twin Peaks Trail, which is a couple miles up and has great views of Eklutna Lake. The trail was in perfect condition and our dogs had a blast running all over the place and playing tug of war with sticks. As we climbed higher and higher we started to see the lake through the trees but still felt warm and protected from the wind. When we finally reached the overlook we almost blew off the mountain and had to put on all of our layers, but the views were worth it! The lake is still frozen but it was gorgeous from up above.
On the drive back to town it was pouring, and we kept saying that we were so glad we had taken a chance and gone for a hike despite the weather forecast calling for rain everywhere. Even though we were prepared for the worst in terms of weather, we got lucky and got the chance to get in a good workout on a snow free trail. To be clear, it’s never a good idea to ignore serious weather reports on a hike. But waiting for perfect weather is tough in Alaska in the spring, and I’m glad we got out and hiked. I’m keeping the Twin Peaks Trail in mind for the next time I need to find a good hike to do in not so great weather. And I’m definitely not going to let a rainy weather forecast cancel my hiking plans in the future if it’s safe to get out there!
Are you a fair weather hiker? If not, what made you decide to hike in all weather conditions? What’s your favorite piece of gear in bad weather?