We sat down to a grilled cheese dinner a little after 10 Sunday night. I had a smile on my face.
Late-night meals are one of the perverse pleasures of spring/summer/fall in Alaska. You have to play outdoors while you can, and with the sun setting around 10:40 p.m. you can play deep into the evening.
Dinner followed several hours of hiking along the Turnagain Arm Trail. It's one of my favorite places in the spring. Usually, the snow melts away quickly on the south-facing slope, and the 9.4-mile trail has a variety of plant life and wildlife. Sunday, we saw a couple moose and Dall sheep. We heard that some folks spotted a black bear, but all we saw was a pile of scat. And the trail head is just a few miles outside Anchorage.
We parked a car at either end of the trail and set off hiking from the Potter trail head toward the Windy Corner trail head. We hadn't gone a mile before we met the first moose, and in less than three miles we had passed the bear scat.
While a 9-mile hike can be a bit ambitious, the trail is well developed and fairly easy to hike. As is the case with a lot of trails in Alaska, it is not completely flat. In fact, nearly every trail head along the route is close to sea level, but after leaving the developed area there is a quick climb before the trail levels off. The extra effort pays off with excellent views of Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Mountains to the south.
Each section of the trail has its unique characteristics – birch, spruce and cottonwood forests; alder groves; small meadows filled with wildflowers; wide-open rocky spaces; waterfalls tumbling down the mountainside. And the smell of spring is always strong along the trail.
While the sandwich satiated my late-night hunger, the hike was simply an appetizer for more activity.