It was noon on a sunny summer day last June when Dan and I decided on the spur of the moment to hike in to Fuller Lakes Trail near Cooper Landing, Alaska. We’d driven by the spot a thousand times but never had we explored what was beyond the steep steps rising from the side of the highway. With no background, no information aside from the neatly carved sign at the trail head reading, “Fuller Lakes, 2.9 miles”, we donned our day packs, a few water bottles, two guns and my ever present camera and off we went.
Now let me explain what we discovered later with a quick trip to Google, which would have better prepared us for what lie ahead. Fuller Lakes trail may be only three miles long, but in that three miles it climbs about 1400 feet. That’s right, a quarter mile elevation rise in a three mile stretch. “Not for the faint of heart,” the website read. EEK!
So as we walked and climbed and climbed some more, the trail kept going up, and up, and up. Around every corner we thought, “Surely it will level out soon.” News flash…it doesn’t!
We acted like it was nothing, the sweat dripping from our brow, whenever we were passed on the trail. About half way up a bubbly blond college girl hoofed it past us at twice my speed with a cute little bounce in her step. Her pony tail swaying as she climbed, pink t-shirt unmarked, her tan legs never stumbling on her way past. For just a second I visualized her battered body lying at the bottom of the ravine to my right and felt my arm twitch towards her, but I held back, smiled politely and let her pass.
We saw few people on the trail and were, as always, stunned by the lack of bear protection most people carry. We come equipped with a 44, a 45, and a monster size can of pepper spray. We saw not one gun being carried by anyone else on the trail.
With fresh piles of poo and massive scratch marks ten feet up several trees, it seems clear to me there were bears around. It’s Alaska, for gosh sakes. One guy we talked to said he had a weapon inside his pack. I’m sure it will be in pristine condition when they find it still in his pack as they haul his families remains back down the trail. Stupid, stupid people.
After two hours of taking photos and taking turns giving each other CPR, we made it to the top of the trail and came out on a lovely lake. Surrounded on all sides by wilderness, three miles up the side of the mountain, we stepped from the trees to find a metropolis of people lakeside. What was even more interesting is that of the six groups of people we encountered that day, we knew two of them personally and a third we discovered is actually from Ninilchik, where we live. I guess there is no escaping small town life no matter how far into the forest you climb.
We looked around a bit, feasted on backpack jerky and peanuts and shared an ice cold bottle of water in a quiet spot on the edge of the lake before heading back down the mountain. As it turned out, going down was much, much nicer than climbing up. About halfway down bobbing pony tail girl in the pink shirt ran by, giggling, her makeup still intact.
I may or may not have stuck my boot out in front of her dainty feet as she passed. Oops, sorry college girl.