My trip to Alaska is less than one week away. Holy. Crap. I’m feeling a little unprepared.
Last week, I checked the trail conditions and here’s the report from June 26 on the National Park Service site:
Due to high water on the Taiya River hikers can expect up to knee deep water on lower sections of the trail. The trail is snow free until approx. 2 miles north of Sheep Camp. From Sheep Camp to the Scales expect 30% snow coverage. Watch for weakening and unstable snow bridges over river crossings.LEAVE SHEEP CAMP NO LATER THAN 5A.M. The Golden Stairs are 50% snow covered. From the Pass to Happy Camp expect 60% snow coverage. Happy Camp to Deep Lake expect 25% snow coverage and patches of snow from Deep Lake to Lindeman. There are 20 snow free tent pads at Happy Camp. Shelters are available at most campgrounds for preparing meals and warming up. Increased travel times and delays can be expected under certain weather conditions and white-outs.
Gulp. Knee deep water that’s probably FREEZING cold? 60% snow coverage from the Pass to Happy Camp? Will my Columbia PeakFreaks be enough?
Parks Canada updates their trail conditions report a bit more frequently. Here’s their report from July 9th:
Looks a little better, but we’re definitely going to get muddy.
Since we had one last weekend together before our trip, Bill and I did another practice hike to get used to walking with a full pack. This time, we packed our bags with everything we’d be carrying on the trail, including all of our food.
I’d say my bag was probably close to 20 pounds? I have no scale, so I’m not quite sure. I just know that it was heavier than last time. Bill’s pack was much heavier: he had our tent, cook kit, and the heaviest of our food. Our original plan was to walk stairs at the University of Tampa, but we thought that would be about as fun as poking our eyes with a stick, so we opted to check out the Hillsborough River State Park.
When we arrived, we noticed a sign that a tour of Fort Foster would be occurring at 2:00. Bill suggested we check it out, since it was just about that time anyhow. So, we bought the $2 tickets, hopped in the tram with about 15 others and headed over to the fort.
Not gonna lie, but the tour wasn’t all that exciting. It was neat to learn about the Second Seminole War, and our tour guide gave us good information, but I think it was almost too much. He wasn’t super charismatic, and the costumed volunteer at the fort went in and out of character while telling his stories which was a little annoying. The tour lasted about 1 hour 45 minutes, which was probably about 45 minutes too long (for me).
When we finished the tour, we drove back around the park to parking lot 2, where one of the trailheads is. This trail was definitely more crowded than our trek around Little Manatee. We saw a bunch of people walking or fishing along the river.
We had been warned to stay on this side of the river, as the other side was pretty flooded, but we crossed over the bridge to the Baynard trail anyhow to check it out.
We got about half a mile in and the trail just became a big mud pit. It was also getting buggier and less shaded so we opted to listen to the rangers and go back to the other side.
I had heard that there were lots of gators in the Hillsborough River so I was really hoping to see some, but again, I struck out. I can’t believe I still haven’t seen any in the wild!
After a little ways more on the trail, it opened up into the camping area. We stopped to figure out how we had ended up there, when a camping family offered us each a cold Coke. He was trying to lighten his load before they headed out, and he figured that we were probably thirsty. I initially declined since Coke really only tastes good to me after a long, hard bike ride, but he gave us each a cold can. As we walked away, Bill told me that I had just experienced “trail magic.” Trail magic typically happens on longer distance hikes, but essentially, it’s a random act of kindness out in the wilderness. It may come in the form of a cold drink, a warm blanket, or a ride to the trail head–some kind of pick me up that boosts morale. I was thankful for the man’s kindness and ended up enjoying the free coke:-)
When we made it back to the car, we calculated we had hiked about 4 miles. Definitely a lot less than we’ll be doing next week, but this was a good opportunity to feel the real weight of the packs- and they were heavy! Next week is definitely going to be tough.