HIking · Weekend

Billions of Boulders

This weekend I got the chance to hike on two of my favorite trails, both of which have boulder fields at the end!  My first hike was a 14.5 mile easy hike to Eagle and Symphony Lakes.

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I absolutely love this trail.  It starts at the South Fork Eagle River Trailhead.  The parking lot can get crowded but once you’re on the trail you don’t run into too many people out there.  There are lots of other trails that split off of the main one, and you can get up onto the surrounding mountains pretty quickly.  But if you stay straight on the trail, you’re rewarded with gorgeous views of the valley.

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The trail is pretty flat the whole way so even though it’s long it’s really easy to do.  I met up with some members of Girls Who Hike AK at 10:00 am and the sun hadn’t yet melted the frost and ice that was covering the trail.  We started off with our coats and gloves on, and the warmed up pretty quickly once we were out in the sun.

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After crossing over a bridge, it’s basically a straight shot a few more miles down the valley to the lakes.  The first lake you see is Eagle Lake.  The lake is glacier fed, which causes it to be a gorgeous turquoise color.

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After crossing a second bridge, you’re officially on a giant boulder field.  It’s HUGE.  I’ve gotten lost on it before, but the best way to find your way across it to the midway point between Eagle and Symphony Lakes is to follow the cairns.  They’re piles of rocks that show you where the trail is located.  Sometimes you can clearly see where the trail is, but it’s also really easy to lose your way.  After walking for a while, we finally made it up to the hut which was the official end of our trail.

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The view from here is pretty crazy because you can see both lakes at once.  Eagle Lake is bright turquoise blue, while Symphony Lake is freshwater and shows a reflection from the mountains around it.  It was really hard to capture it in pictures due to the angle of the sun, so I’ll just be posting pictures of Eagle Lake.

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Boulders everwhere

Going back across the boulders was trickier because we definitely got a bit lost.  By the time we reached the trail again we were starting to get tired.  The way back was harder than the way out there because all of the frost had melted and the trail was really muddy.  After a few hours of squishing through mud we finally made it back to our cars.  It took us 7 hours but I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend a sunny Saturday!

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On Sunday we met up with our friend for brunch to celebrate her birthday.  She really wanted to do a birthday hike, so we suggested driving down to Portage to hike to Byron Glacier.  The trail is about 1.5 miles round trip, and it’s completely flat.  You could probably even push a stroller down this trail!

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The trail officially ends at an overlook.  There are signs letting hikers know that hiking on or under the glacier is super dangerous.  However, there are ice caves at the toe of the glacier that people like to explore at their own risk.  We headed up toward the glacier to check it out, which involves climbing over a tall boulder pile.  These boulders were huge and I had to use my hands to pull myself up and over them.

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When I got to the top I realized that the ice caves were still pretty far away, and my friend’s dog wasn’t really able to get past the boulders.  It seems like if you want to make it all the way to the glacier you have to either be willing to climb boulders or walk up the river, and you probably don’t want a dog with you.

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The view from the top of the boulder field – and there’s still a lot more to climb over

I turned around and climbed back down, and we vowed to come back out here soon so we could explore more areas around the glacier.  Even though it was drizzly and very windy, it was a great day to be in Portage.

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On the drive home we stopped at a few spots we’ve never checked out before, and found a gorgeous glacial lake with Explorer Glacier hanging above it.

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To be honest, I kind of hate hiking through boulder fields.  I get lost easily, and never seem to pick the quickest way from start to finish.  I also end up stepping on the most unstable rocks and losing my balance.  But it’s always worth it once I make it back on stable land and get to see things that are hidden to people who aren’t willing to climb to see them.  I’d much rather climb boulders than walk on unstable scree at the top of a steep mountain.  I’m really glad I got to see billions of boulders this weekend and happy that I was able to walk over thousands of them in order to see some pretty incredible views!

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Have you ever hiked across a boulder field?  What’s your least favorite part of hiking?

7 thoughts on “Billions of Boulders

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