Friday, June 1, 2012

Eklutna Lake Camping Adventure Day 1

 Backcountry camping can be daunting for a family with children...I've certainly been intimidated by it. The security blanket of immediately accessible transportation for issues of forgotten items and medical emergency situations is just something I have grown accustomed to while "car camping".  This jaunt into the Eklutna recreational area was a bit outside the comfort zone. So what does a paranoid, control freak planner do? Plan like crazy, of course! Check out preparations for this trip here --> Click!

First on the agenda: the bike trip to the cabin. As a recap, the site is located three miles into the lakeside trail. It is a wide multi-use gravel/dirt road.  There are times it splits into an upper and lower road, the upper trail dedicated for motorized users and the lower for hikers and bikers.

Armed with our essentials for the next 2.5 days, we set out for the cabin.  Let me tell you, it is THE most beautiful bike ride I have ever experienced.

At the parking lot, ready to go.

The boys plus gear and Liv led the way. Sophie and I held up the rear.  As a precaution, we attached bear bells to the bikes and had ready access to bear spray just in case of any wildlife encounters.

For those with little ones...let them set the pace, allowing them to call for breaks. Miss Sophie had a little 16" kiddie bike, no gears, and we knew the little inclines took a lot for her to pedal through. She usually called for a stop at the top of a hill...or in this case, at a nice creek simply because she wanted a closer look. She had a whistle that she would blow to alert the boys up front she needed a breather. 

As always, little Liv enjoyed the ride being towed behind her Daddy. She could help out by pedaling, although the Mister just laughed when I asked him if she assisted during the inclines.

At the beginning, Sophie played it safe, choosing to walk her bike down a decline versus zipping down. Towards the end of the trip, she was whooping it down every time.

Note: After the 1 mile marker, the trail will split into the usual ATV vs. foot/bike traffic. The foot trail gets  a bit unpleasant. Snow runoff trickles down this area and muddies/floods up about a ten foot section of the trail. It wouldn't be such a hassle if that part weren't inundated with large roots. Because the Mister was pulling a Weehoo child trailer and Dylan was hauling the Burley trailer (with our gear), we had to walk the bikes through the area. If it is a day when ATV's are not allowed in the area, feel free to take the upper trail to skip through this. (We took it the next day.) There is more of a significant incline at the ATV trail, but no mud. If you aren't towing any gear and your children are more comfortable with mountain biking, this would be a fun section to try your technical skills.

It's a bit difficult trying to videotape with a phone and steering a bike one-handed.  I'm not that good at it. LOL

 The roar of Yuditna Creek cascading down into the lake let us know we were close to our destination. Shortly after crossing the creek bridge, there is a path (clearly marked) leading to the cabin.
What a great campsite! There is a picnic table, a fire ring with sitting logs arranged around it, and the previous occupants even left us with plenty of cut wood. (No need to haul firewood over, there is a bunch of driftwood along the shores of the lake for easy harvesting.) 

The cabin sleeps five on the wooden platforms. Another three can lay their sleeping bags on the floor with plenty of space.  My favorite amenity? This wood burning stove! Yay for warm nights!!! There is a broom/dustpan, full sized axe, saw (dull), fire poker, and even a cabin journal inside. 

Note the view! 

Our own pit toilet. The trail is beyond those trees, and as you can see, we are pretty cloaked in privacy despite its close proximity to the rest of the trail.

The rangers met us at the cabin (they said they were meaning to beat us there to clean up before our arrival), and they were very friendly.  They stocked the latrine with toilet paper, made sure everything was working, and even gave the kids Alaska State Parks stickers. They reassured us that we needn't string up our food bag in the trees; it (and us) would be fine with it enclosed in the cabin. They also said bears haven't been plentiful this close to the lake this season YET. Apparently, they start encroaching later on in the summer when PEOPLE start leaving food and trash around. 

There is a path from the campsite down to the beach and to the creek. The water was fast and coooold. 

We collected water from the creek and ran it through our filter.  I can't say enough about this Platypus filter, btw.  It cleaned 4L in a matter of 2 minutes! We were able gather 12 L in no time (poured 4L from clean reservoir into a water jug, filtered another 4L into the clean reservoir, closed the clamp, and refilled the dirty reservoir). Plenty of water for drinking and cleaning up for the night.

The kids loved the beach! 

The thermostat registered at 50 degrees F, but the winds from the glacier at the end of the lake made it pretty chilly.

The best thing about camping, especially in places with no internet connectivity, is that it gives the family a chance to unplug for a bit.  The distraction of electronics is gone, and we get to focus on each other. There is no need to bring games or toys along...nature is just a big ole playground.

They used that hillside as a slide.

"I love it here!!!"

The boys challenged each other with rock skipping and shot putting contests.

My handsome men.

It's amazing to see how much he's grown. The first time our family went camping, he was Sophie's age.

Bedtime wouldn't be complete without a game of "What animal am I?" and "When you were a baby" stories.  It's cute that the Mister and I have to be very technical about animal trivia as these three are expert at it. Animals aren't constrained into general names like tiger, lion, elephant...but are pretty specific...i.e., Dahl porpoises, orcas (don't ever call them killer whales in front of the kids), RIVER dolphins, quails, golden eagles, and bald eagles...the list is endless. They try not to make it obvious when we have it narrowed down to "bear." The next clue isn't it's color, but "it has a hump on its back" or "it's snout is narrower."  Proud moments.

Such a wonderful time.

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