I'm interrupting my incredibly slow sharing of my trip to Nicaragua to tell you about the amazing hike I went on today. I'm in Cordova, Alaska, for work for a week, and had today off. Miraculously, it wasn't raining when I woke up, so I carried on with my plans to go for a good long hike. I was going to go even if it was raining, but it's much more pleasant when it's not. Anyway, I'd chosen the Heney Ridge Trail as my destination. It's near the end of Whitshed Road, not far from where I'm staying.
The trail starts just before the bridge over Hartney Bay and follows the bay for the first half-mile or so. I suspect that a bit later in the spring and in the fall you can see countless migrating waterfowl species, not to mention spawning salmon and fishing bears in the fall. I had to settle for a few ducks and a Rufous hummingbird, but I didn't mind.
The trail starts gently wending its way upwards fairly quickly, an easy walking path for close to a mile.
It was quickly apparent that a great deal of effort went into building and maintaining this trail. The first section had gravel fill, and the remainder frequently had log and board walkways across muskegs, streams, and other mucky areas. It was a good thing or I'd have had to hike in rubber boots, especially after yesterday's heavy rain. Cordova's location in the northern reaches of a temperate rain forest were readily abundant.
This kind of forest is my absolute favorite. I love the primordial feel and the look of moss covering everything: death, decomposition, and regrowth omnipresent.
I was walking along, trying not to trip on exposed roots while I gawked and feeling like I'd entered some otherworldly place when the first set of moss-covered stairs appeared before me. Surely elves had tread here before me.
Not much further along, I was transported back to Bhutan by the sight of early fiddlehead ferns. We ate these spring delicacies on a near daily basis as the locals made use of whatever was in season in that subsistence-level country. Of course, the Himalayas, arid and brown at the same time of year, look nothing like Cordova, so my mental wandering didn't last long.
Shortly after the above muskeg, the trail took a decided turn for the up. There were flight after flight of log stairs interrupted by climbs over big rocks and exposed hemlock and spruce roots. Personally, I preferred the rocks and roots. The wooden boardwalks were great because they were consistently covered with old fishing net web which gave my boots great traction. The stairs and log-filled mucky areas, however, tended to be just bare wood that was dangerously slippery with algae. I was not the first to skirt these ankle-busters, although I did do my best to avoid expanding the trail as much as possible.
I have given up, mostly, on trying to capture the steepness of trails in photos. The camera has too much of a tendency to flatten everything out. I thought this photo, however, might give you a clue about the difficulty of the last, upper mile (give or take) of the trail:
Not long after the ladder, surely not more than a few thousand more deep squats, spring retreated just a bit and I saw snow near the trail.
Before long, my path was blocked by a snowfield. I could see the plastic orange triangles across the way that indicated where I wanted to go, but I saw no tracks that said anyone had gone before me this year.
I figured it was time to turn back. Disappointed, I looked around and decided I just had to see what the view was like from a knoll not far ahead of me. I trekked across a narrow isthmus of snow, it really wasn't deep at all, and up the little hill. What a reward! Views of Hartney Bay and Orca Inlet spread before me.
Oh, how I wanted to continue on. I scanned the hillside, following the orange trail markers with my eyes as they led toward Heney Ridge. I thought perhaps I could skirt the majority of the snowfields, crossing narrow sections of rotten snow where necessary, and make my way up the ridge, but common sense prevailed. I wasn't worried about avalanches with so little snow up there, but if I managed to hurt myself in the process, help would be a long time in coming. I swallowed my disappointment and told myself that now I had an excuse to come back later in the summer. This trail found itself a place high on my list of favorites.
Instead, I satisfied myself with stopping for a snack while gawking at this fabulous view. An obligatory selfie later (to prove I was there, you know), and I started back down.
While my quads groaned on the way up, on the way down my right knee squeaked at me loudly. Any pain was well worth it, however. I just hope I can find an excuse to get back to Cordova this summer. I won't be forgetting about Heney Ridge Trail any time soon.