2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   SCENIC GOLD MINT TRAIL HIKE

TUESDAY, JULY 31

"The Gold Mint Trail follows the Little Susitna Valley to the end, below the Mint Glacier.  
It traces the river's path on the west side for eight miles in the lush and scenic Gold Mint Valley.  
The trail was originally pioneered by gold miners in the 1930s to access gold prospects in the
valley, with remnants of their past activity occasionally visible from the trail." 
 
~ from an Alaska State Parks sign at the trailhead
 
 

No rain today -- we woke to sunshine again. It's probably the last day of sunshine we'll see in the next week so Jim and I both got outside a lot today.

It remained mostly sunny all day both in Anchorage and in the Talkeetna Mountains. The high in Anchorage was 68 F. but less where I was hiking in the mountains. The sun felt quite warm at 2,900 feet, however. Thatís the highest elevation I got in the valley below Mint Glacier:


Near my turnaround point seven miles up from the trailhead

Cody and I hiked 14 miles on the Gold Mint Trail. The trailhead is at MM 14 on the Hatcher Pass Road north of Palmer:

There is a restroom at the trailhead and signs with information about the route to Mint Glacier. The parking lot is large enough for big rigs to park and dry camping is allowed overnight. There were only a few vehicles in the parking area when I began and ended my hike.

This is a somewhat-legible photo of the topo map at the trailhead:

The trailhead is at the lower left of this map section and Mint Glacier is at the upper right. I marked the trail through the valley in yellow. Unfortunately, I can't show you an elevation profile, track, or map from my GPS.

It took me over seven hours to do the hike. I took a gazillion photos (OK, 451 on the trail, to be exact), stopped several times to get in my pack, and talked to an Australian guy for several minutes.

In addition, the trail was tough to negotiate in places Ė rocky, wet, overgrown with thick willows, lush flowers, and other plants. It is definitely easier to hike than to bike this trail, however, at least after five miles.


The best views of Mint Glacier are in the third and fourth miles of the trail.

I was hoping to get all the way up to the hut (about eight miles) near Mint Glacier but stopped at seven miles because I was tired of pushing through the thick vegetation without being able to see where I was putting my feet.

I fell only once but slid around a lot in mud/muskeg, on rocks, and into holes I couldnít see:


Sometimes the trail is a creek or goes through shallow wet areas.


Lush vegetation, including these tall blue lupines, often hides the trail.

When I looked at my GPS track later I could see how close I got to the glacier area Ė tantalizing, but not close enough. If Iíd known that at the time, I would have pushed farther on the trail.

This entry covers three pages because I want to show a lot of photos of this beautiful area. I edited those 451 original trail photos down to 345 pictures and chose 75 to showcase here. I'll divide them about equally so the pages are easier to load.

HIKING & RIDING THIS TRAIL

The Gold Mint Trail is open to pedestrians, equestrians, and mountain bikers.


View from beginning of the trail of peaks I'd pass later in my hike; fireweed blooms in the foreground.

Elevation at the trailhead is 1,815 feet. My high point, where I turned around, was 2,913 feet, a gain of 1,098 feet in seven miles.

Most of that was very gradual. Iíd probably notice any uphill sections more on a bike than on foot.

Two cyclists, a middle-aged couple, were coming back down the trail within a mile from the trailhead when I started out. The trail is wider there than later (below), when it becomes narrow single-track and sometimes disappears completely:

Nice, wide trail (above) becomes more narrow and morphs into overgrown sections (second
photo below) within a few miles. The wildflowers were magnificent the whole way:

 

Another cyclist, a middle-aged fella from Australia, came up from behind me about 2Ĺ miles in and we talked a little while. He planned to leave his bike wherever the trail got too gnarly to ride and walk farther from there.

I caught up to his bike at a wet area at the 5-mile post, the last mileage post I found:


This trail gets increasingly difficult on a bike or on foot.

He walked to about 6 miles and turned around. I saw him at about 5Ĺ miles, before he got back to his bike. He warned me that the trail got harder and harder to negotiate through overgrown willows, more water and rocks, etc. He was right.

Those three cyclists and a couple with two young kids and two dogs at a beaver pond about two miles in were the only people I saw for several hours:


Beaver lodge in the pond

There were about a dozen people closer to the trailhead when I came back. Otherwise, Cody and I pretty much had the place to ourselves all day.

CRAZY PERSPECTIVE: IS THAT WATER FLOWING UPHILL?

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon before and experienced it again today.

Sometimes when driving, running, or hiking through a mountain valley it looks like I'm going downhill when I'm actually going uphill. My GPS verified I continued to get higher the farther I walked outbound today but it sure looked like the stream was flowing uphill the closer I got to its source at the end of this valley:

 

The stream is coming from down in that valley, right??  I assure you it looked the same in person, not just in these pictures.

AND WHERE DID THAT GLACIER GO?

Another weird phenomenon in this valley is the disappearance of the Mint Glacier as you get closer to it.

That's because there is a rocky ridge below it that hides the ice after the fifth mile. It's easier to see the glacier when you're at a lower elevation:

 

My best views of Mint Glacier were in the fourth mile on a few high spots in meadows where tall wildflowers and willows didnít obstruct my view. You have to get back that far to be facing the right direction to see the part of the canyon where that glacier is located.

After about five miles, however, I couldnít see the glacier because of the rock walls around its basin:

I couldn't see where the trail went as it got closer to the glacier, either. I've enlarged my 16-megapixel 16x close-ups of the end of the valley to their maximum resolution and can't tell where the trail or hut are located. I don't know if it's possible to get up to the ice or not.

Guess I'll just have to keep walking farther next time to find out!


This is about where I turned around at seven miles.

After I turned around I periodically looked back to the end of the valley and noted that more and more clouds were coming in over the glaciated area:

 

 


Iím sorry I couldnít get up to the basin at the edge of the glacier. I know itís beautiful up there.

The peaks on either side of the river are in the 6,000-8,0000-foot range. Per my GPS map there are lots of glaciers on either side from 28 to771 acres in size. I could see some of them from the trail.

Continued on the next page . . .

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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