There is something disconcerting about being thrown into the backseat of a car and being driven circuitously for an hour to an undisclosed location.
Such was my experience July 27, when five us piled into two cars: Northern Light staffers Heather Gower, Hannah Guillaume and I in one car, and our friends Bryan Roerick, Preston Smith and the trail-loving dog Hank in the other.
Gower was our fallacious guide, who had us searching for a rather ambiguous location which she claimed to have climbed several times before.
I had no concept of direction or surroundings. I only knew that we were searching for a place to pull over three miles after the pavement ended.
Gower said we would then hike approximately four hours through the woods, without the assistance of a trail, to the ridge of a flat mountaintop known only to some as POW MIA.
As it tends to be when poor planning and skimpy directions occur, the pavement no longer ends where it used to.
Apparently, folks can now drive all the way to Eklutna Lake on pristine blacktop.
Since the paved road never ended, we opted to forego the initial destination and hike the 2.6 miles to Twin Peaks, a trail that originates at Eklutna Lake day use and campground parking lot.
Even though I hadn’t known where I was going, I knew to pack and carry gear for all types of alpine weather.
As luck would have it, we ended up with a day that seemed to mimic what the rest of the U.S. is currently experiencing: sunny and hot.
Smith and I evidently had more steam in our hiking boots than the rest of our party, so we took off like a couple of Dall sheep.
Evidently, the Twin Peaks trail was initially a road cut out by the U.S. Army, so one might assume that it would be a hike with an emphasis on “moderate” instead of “advanced.”
However, the trail proved to be an arduous one, as it immediately turned into a 30- to 40-foot incline, which it maintained for the remaining 2.6 miles.
In a half mile’s time, we had climbed nearly 1,000 feet in elevation.
Smith and Bryan Roerick had spent the early part of the day ice climbing at Byron Glacier in Portage.
“After walking on the ice this morning, this [is] like a piece of cake” Smith said with an easy grin. Oh yeah, rub it in young one.
When Smith and I hit the first overlook at 2,034 feet, according to the GPS, it occurred to me that it wasn’t the incline that put the Twin Peaks trail in the “advanced” category.
Rather, it was the flesh-eating flies. Within minutes of sitting down to soak in the sorely missed sun, outstanding view of Eklutna Lake and the glacier that fed into it, we realized that our arms and legs were under siege by flies the size of sparrows.
We initially tried the Zen-Buddhist approach: breath deep, expand the manifold of acceptance, own the properties of time and space, be one with the flies.
However, when the gnats and mosquitoes joined the massacre, we abandoned our chi, and in a whirlwind of comedic error, we zipped the pant legs back on to our shorts.
We traversed onwards through swarms of winged armies, through dusty rain-deprived forest, up a heinously steep trail for a very slow mile and a half. Occasionally the trees would open up and offer us a breathtaking glimpse of Eklutna Lake, Goat Mountain Bowl, or as promised, the Twin Peaks, but the parasitic monsters kept pushing us forward.
Just before the trail ended, we hit the treeline, and a slightly cool wind whipped around us, deterring the freeloading fiends from further pursuit.
I swore I could actually hear them howling out their rage and frustration from the depths of the foliage.
The end of the trail came shortly thereafter, at a small bench situated at the base of a large alpine meadow that looked out at the two glorious peaks that reached up high into the sky.
The sister peaks were breathtakingly impressive and the shadows cast by clouds that skirted over them added greatly to their air of nobility.
However, the end of the trail seemed somewhat abrupt, and even a tad anti-climactic after fighting like samurais for several hours, so the two of us, not satisfied with our burning calves and expired lungs, continued to traverse upward and onward, hoping for another satisfying morsel of outstanding panorama.
We hiked for another hour over rolling tundra until we took a seat in the great amphitheater that served us an eyeful of the illustrious Eklutna Valley and Knik Arm.
Though we didn’t see any of the Dall sheep often spotted in the area, any of the golden eagles the region is noted for or the rest of our hiking party for that matter, the serenity of sitting atop the alpine tundra was greatly rewarding.
The rest of our group never arrived at the top, so after awhile we made the descent, a mere one-hour run, never to find our friends.
The party of three and their dog Hank were MIA, assumed only to have been taken prisoner by one of the wild herds of giant flies. But in fact, they were enjoying a Power Bar picnic along the shores of Eklutna Lake.