The sky was flat and overcast, typical for April in South Central Alaska. “You just missed miles of blue sky and views of Denali by a few days.” Howard, from Alaska Nature Guides noted. It turns out March is the prime month to visit South Central Alaska for nearly guaranteed clear weather within the ever-present high pressure system that keeps the skies clear and crisp.
There are lots of snowshoeing options around the Talkeetna area to suit any level of interest. There are aggressive hikes available in the nearby Denali National Park, moderate hikes in the adjacent Denali State Park and easy hikes right here in Talkeetna itself. Though we were both young strapping lads (Howard used to work as a park ranger and has summited Denali) and since the sky was overcast, the views were not going to be part of our hike regardless of where we went, we opted for an easy stroll through the Talkeetna Lakes Park.
The lakes were all still frozen over and covered in snow. In the summer, cabins along the shore of the various lakes are available for rent and visitors spend their days swimming and canoeing around the lake and exploring the small islands and seemingly endless shorelines. Today, we get to walk across the lakes and over or around the islands. Not long after we started our walk, light flakes of snow started to fall changing the ambiance from average to exploratory. The light snow filled the sky and gave texture to the air in speckling contrast to the dark trees across the lake.
We encountered a number of tracks that criss-crossed the lake: moose, wolf and beaver most notably along with the possibility of coyote and wolverine. Howard took a moment each time we crossed another set of tracks to analyze them and explain to me what he was seeing. Some of the tracks were quite old taking some of the necessary detail to determine who left them. Though, just the pattern and size was usually enough.
When we left the smooth, flat surface of the lake and entered the woods, Howard pointed out the various types of trees, plants and some of the natural history of the area as evidenced by everything we saw. We stopped briefly by a fallen tree and Howard pulled out some insulated pads to sit on. With a cup of warm tea in hand and a little snack, we alternated between continuing our conversation and listening to the snow falling on the foliage around us.
Following a route of exploration that in the summer would involve canoeing and portaging, we easily moved from traversing one frozen lake into the woods and onto another lake. At times we crunched through areas that will turn to marsh when the days get longer and warmer.
When we were just a quarter-mile from the car, we had come off our last lake and were following a path when we found our way blocked. Not permanently mind you… just while some moose forage on the tender emerging buds of the coming spring. Our little roadblock composed of two babies (big babies) and a momma moose. Fortunately, the big momma moose was deep in the wood and we were never between her and her young charges once they moved off the trail and out of our way. We walked gently by appreciating this fun opportunity to observe what may be the very creatures that created the tracks we spotted out on the frozen lakes and continued onto the car eagerly awaiting the warm glow of the fire and a toasty mug of hot coco at the Talkeetna Roadhouse.
For more information about Cameron Martindell and his adventure photography, visit http://www.offyonder.com.