Wednesday is the summer solstice, AKA the longest day of the year. I always try to do something fun to celebrate by spending time outside in the sunshine, and when I saw that this weekend was going to be sunny I planned a quick backpacking trip. The problem was that I already had a hair appointment on Saturday afternoon at 4:15, which meant that we would get a late start. But in the land of the midnight sun, that’s not really a problem! Even with a late start, we knew that we’d make it to our campsite before the sun officially set.
After getting my hair cut and eating dinner, my husband and I picked up my friend and we headed down to Hope. It’s a really tiny town (like 125 people) on the Kenai Peninsula. There’s some great hiking there, including an 11 mile hike to and from Gull Rock. We had never done the trail before, but heard that it was flat and easy and that there were amazing areas to set up camp at the end.
The trail was definitely easy and flat, which was perfect for the first backpacking trip of the season. We traveled through dense forest, lush green areas, places where there were lots of downed trees, and some areas that were so overgrown with devil’s club that we had to cover our faces to keep them from getting scratched up. Every once in a while there was an overlook and we could see the sun slowly starting to set over Turnagain Arm.
At around 11:00 pm, we finally made it to the end of the trail. We were tired, hungry, and so sick of walking through the tall overgrown sections of the trail. We were expecting some nice places to camp, but had no idea we’d find one like this!
We knew that the trail continued on, and we didn’t know if there were any other people camped out there. So we kept hiking to the end of the trail. The overlook from the edge of Gull Rock was gorgeous, and we made it just in time to see the sun set!
The places that would be great for camping were all full at the end of the trail, but we didn’t mind heading back to the gorgeous spot we found facing south towards Hope. This time of year, the sun never really “sets” – it goes down, but there’s still enough light to see clearly outside until the sun rises again around 4:00 am. So we knew we’d have a ton of light to set up camp, even at midnight. Our main problem was the mosquitos! They’re always bad in Alaska, but they are especially rough this year and they were relentlessly biting us as we set up camp and ate some snacks. We had to pack in a bear box for our food, which we hid away from camp in case we had any nighttime visitors.
The most important thing I packed was my sleep mask. It was crazy bright all night long (like taking a nap on a cloudy day) and our tent did nothing to stop the light from coming through. Although it did keep us bug free all night! I slept really well and woke up to a chilly morning. The mosquitos were excited to see us, so we basically just ate a quick breakfast and packed up before starting out a little after 8:00 am.
If you’re looking for an easy backpacking trip with a killer spot to set up your tent, this is a great trail! The cons were that most of it was in the trees so the views weren’t constantly awesome, and it was definitely overgrown so I’d do this hike earlier in the year. We were definitely tired by the time we got back to Hope, and we ate some much deserved food and coffee at the Discovery Cafe before heading back to the city. It was an amazing way to celebrate the solstice, and now I’m dying to do another backpacking trip soon!
Have you ever gone backpacking before? Where’s the most gorgeous place you’ve ever set up a tent?