2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Denali AKA Mt. McKinley

 

   
 
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   SOUTH FORK EAGLE RIVER TRAIL TO 
   EAGLE & SYMPHONY LAKES, p. 2

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19

 
 
Continued from the previous page.

The trail gets more rocky as it nears the outlet for Eagle Lake. From this gravel bed you can begin to see the moraine full of boulders at the north end of the lakes:

Soon I could see this pretty turquoise-colored pond, which I've dubbed Eagle II.

From what I'd read I knew it wasn't Eagle Lake itself, which is long and linear. It's a pond at the outlet of Eagle Lake but in a photo at the trailhead it's identified as Eagle Lake:

I think the pond is as photogenic as the lake.

The trail continues right along the left side of the pond and outlet creek, over another rocky slope, past a large boulder, and comes to a bridge across the creek:


This is probably more flooded in early summer when more snow is melting.

 

 

The bridge near the north end of Eagle Lake crosses the rushing flow of turquoise glacial water through the outlet and dumps hikers into the boulder field:

 


View of outlet creek downstream toward the pond


More sunny afternoon view of outlet creek to the south, toward Eagle Lake

THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND? 

Ah, the boulder field! It's the work of the devil, I'd say. Or, less dramatically, the moraine left by a retreating glacier . . .

Whatever, it's very difficult to negotiate, at least for an older woman with lousy balance and arthritic joints. Supposedly there is a "trail" through the rocks but for a solo hiker of any age in the boulder field for the first time, the "trail" is neither obvious nor intuitive:

 


There's a cairn, but where is the "trail?"

The largest boulders are near the bridge. Even though the rocks tend to get gradually smaller, they weren't any easier for me to negotiate safely. I spent a long time trying to follow the maze of cairns and "trails" through the rocks. It was a relief when I finally got through the worst of them.

It's a miracle that I didn't slip, fall, or twist an ankle through the boulder field. It took a tremendous amount of concentration and a very slow pace in and out of that mess of rocks for more than half a mile to the high dirt/rock divide between the lakes.


Eagle Lake (turquoise color from glacial silt) and a little puddle from rain (blue)

Above and below:  almost to Symphony Lake, to the right of Eagle Lake going outbound

 


There it is!  Pretty blue Symphony Lake is on the right, the green hump between the lakes to the left.

I could see Eagle Lake from most of the boulder field but had to get over several false summits and small ridges to see Symphony Lake. There was more dirt to walk on as I approached Symphony -- but still a maze of trails.

ALPINE JEWELS

The two pretty lakes were long ago separated by a landslide, which I walked across:

It's pretty fascinating to see the two different colors of lakes at the same time from "the land between," although I captured only a little bit of Symphony Lake's color on the right in the next photo:

Eagle Lake appeared more cement-colored today at ground level than the bright turquoise I've seen from up on Rendezvous Ridge:

 

I like rounder, smaller Symphony Lake (45 A., per my GPS track) better than longer, more linear Eagle Lake (124 A.), mostly because of Symphony's prettier blue color:

 

 

I spent about half an hour wandering along Symphony's shoreline, enjoying the views and wildflowers.

Both scenic alpine lakes, surrounded by mountains and glaciers, are stunning either from their shorelines or from high places like Rendezvous Ridge or any of the nearby peaks.

There is something else interesting to examine in the rocks between the two lakes -- an old dilapidated wooden structure with different origins I've read (former homesteader's cabin, or one used by scientists and/or forest rangers studying the area). Park officials don't want folks staying in it overnight but it might provide a bit of shelter if hikers are caught out in a storm:

 

 

SCENES FROM THE RETURN TO THE TRAILHEAD

When it was time to go I returned to the bridge over all the rocks on a route closer to Eagle Lake. That was easier than my outbound route trying to follow the "trail."

No one else was at the lakes until I was most of the way back to the little bridge over the outlet of Eagle Lake. All of a sudden four groups of people arrived and took different routes over the rocky moraine (nine total, with two dogs). I saw only three people outbound and 23 on my way back.

I didn't see any wildlife except those ubiquitous (and cute) arctic ground squirrels, doggone it. I went through perfectly good habitat for moose, bears, and marmots through the valley and Dall sheep up on the rocky hillsides. When I was editing my photos I zoomed in on ones I thought might show sheep on mountainsides but, alas, they were just rocks.

Almost all of the fireweeds have stopped blooming in this valley. Some have silky seeds and most have bright red leaves now, their last stages before winter arrives.

 

I did a total of 11.72 miles in 6:23 hours. I took tons of photos. The light was better on the return because I was facing the sun in the late morning as I headed to the end of the valley.

Elevations ranged from 1,847 to 2,641 feet with a total gain and loss of 3,228 feet. There was nothing steep, so it's a fairly easy trail for most kids, adults, and dogs to hike -- until you reach the boulder field!

 

I wish I'd discovered this trail earlier in the summer because I'd like to have gone up the Hanging Valley Trail to see the "surprise" hidden lake (tarn) at the end. It's too late to do any more hikes here now because we're leaving Anchorage soon.

Next entryback to Denali National Park

Happy trails,

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

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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