Posted by: Michelle Mitton | June 24, 2008

Hidden Lake, Alaska

Skilak Lake, AlaskaLast month Andrew and the boys went camping at Hidden Lake, unlucky for them we’ve had a rather gloomy, rainy, cold spring this year (we’re all wondering if we’re ever going to get summer judging from the weather we’ve had) but did that stop them? Nope. They grabbed the Gortex and headed for the hills and had a great time.

If you haven’t seen Hidden Lake (and why would you–it’s hidden, right?) it’s about two hours south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula and is one of the nicest campgrounds down that way. The facilities are good (that’s the nice way to say the outhouses aren’t are as barbaric as they could be, though you know it’s all relative–there certainly isn’t anyone handing you a perfumed towel when you walk out the door or anything) the camp ground is well-maintained and there are nice trails down the road for a little hiking–it’s just a fun place to get away from it all. And since you’re so hidden no one will even know you’re there.

Hidden Lake, AlaskaWhen the guys went this last time they wanted to hike the 4-mile Skilak Overlook Trail near Skilak (skee-lack) Lake. That’s a place that’s always fascinated me.

You see Skilak is a glacial lake–as are many of the lakes around here–which means that it’s fed by glaciers (pardon me if that’s completely obvious, but if you live in Arizona glacial lakes may not be something you encounter every day). Anyway, the glacial water makes the color funny, kind of a blue-green opaque that holds its own rather than a translucent mirror of the mountains and sky you get with regular lakes. Something to do with the suspended glacial silt in the water I believe.

Anyway, Skilak is also very long–about 15 miles–and it’s normal for sudden storms to toss up and make things rather dodgy for anyone hanging about in a boat. And then there’s the temperature. Even in summer the glacial water is hardly above freezing, fall in and you’d have only a minute or two before hypothermia got you.

Skilak Lake, AlaskaYears ago we went camping at Skilak for an Independence Day treat–my first trip there–and I remember standing at the water’s edge with that funny color staring at me under the heavy clouds and everything felt so quiet and cold and ominous. The kind of scene where if you were watching a movie you’d just know that something bad was about to happen–all it lacked was the mournfully edgy music in the background and the ski-masked marauder lurking in the bushes.

My Dad came up behind me about that time and started telling me how over the years so many people had lost their lives on the lake, that it attracted weekend boaters who weren’t prepared for the problems that could occur. Just about the time he finished his story we saw a man and a couple kids pushing off from the shore in a little outboard-powered aluminum skiff, none of them wearing life jackets. I tell you it was just like a movie and for some reason it made an impression on me, if I’d have read later that their boat had capsized and they’d all drown it wouldn’t have surprised me, it was that kind of a feeling.

Unfortunately as wonderful as Alaska is there are a lot of dangerous things and too often people don’t respect nature enough to remember that. Skilak fascinates me as an example of what you can expect in this crazy place–beautiful but dangerous.

But to end on a lighter note, my men stayed out of the water and hiked quite a bit of the two miles in before the boys decided that the “moderate hike” they’d read about was anything but. Heavy brush and spring mud made it slow going and pretty soon the boys were ready to die and were begging to turn back. I suppose it didn’t help that they’d all been up late the night before giggling around the fire and eating so many marshmallows that their insides had probably liquefied to marshmallow jelly. So they cut things short and came back tired, hungry, wet and muddy.

When they walked in the door and I asked David and Spencer how the trip had been I got a “Great” followed by instant tears. That just means they had a good time.

Happy but exhausted–Skilak Lake conquers again.

***

Congratulations to Barbara for winning The Fine Art of Family necklace from last Saturday’s giveaway and to Stephanie at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood for winning the Adventure Suit and Oaki Zip Rain Boots from Outdoor Adventure Kid Company. Good stuff!

Sponsored by: Shabby Apple–Elegant dresses for women and girls and more!

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