The Kenai River and Skilak Lake, as seen from the top of Hideout Trail Feb. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River and Skilak Lake, as seen from the top of Hideout Trail Feb. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Enjoying the silence

Just over five miles into my hike up and down Green Mountain in Chautauqua Park outside Boulder, Colorado, this past winter, I faced a choice.

Left and up on the Crown Rock trail, or down, right and straight back to the parking lot on the Baseline trail.

Sifting classic Colorado powder after it danced on and around the stated green of coniferous trees was not getting old, so I chose up and left.

Whether it is tucking down for a better view of Cooper Lake on the Cecil Rhode traverse or darting off the beaten path to behold the waterfall on the Primrose side of the Lost Lake Trail, I’d learned side trips pay dividends.

Sitting at Crown Rock, eating my dinner of curried vegetables and overlooking Boulder would be the perfect end to my day.

My map, or to be more exact a hastily taken picture with my smartphone, did not prepare me for what I would find after eagerly climbing almost 350 feet in less than a half mile.

Cars. A parking lot. A road. Traffic. Lots of people. That dirty sludge that forms on well-traveled pavement in fresh snowfall.

This would not be the perfect end to my day.

Time for me and my curried vegetables to retreat to the parking lot. To get there I would have to take Flagstaff trail, which crosses Flagstaff Road multiple times. Many Alaskans don’t like hikes that end on major roads, so you can imagine how I felt about crossing one multiple times.

To top it off, I also would pass a man, mysterious and stoic, staring off the trail as traffic whirred in the distance.

“Everything all right?” I gently asked.

“Oh sure,” he said. “Just enjoying the silence.”

This denouement to the hike did not ruin my day. It also is not meant to belittle Chautauqua Park, as pure of a playground as you could ask for stemming from the streets of a city of 100,000 just 25 miles from Denver.

But that day did drive home one of the many things that makes Alaska special — the short, magical side trip.

In late February, I had just finished skiing a lap of Hidden Lake. Driving on Skilak Loop Road, the first hints of a serene and scintillating sunset began to tease through the trees.

I was passing Hideout Trail. A little over a mile of hiking and almost 900 feet of climbing and I could take in this budding sunset from a classic peninsula perch.

Time for a side trip.

Reaching the top, the mountains behind Skilak Lake were speckled soft and delicately imbued with the palette of an escaping far north winter’s day, making the scene, with its enduring stillness, more painting than reality.

A full moon hung over head, adding watchful dignity. The frosty Kenai River swirled into the picture from below.

And as the sun retreated, cold air pulled moisture from the snow, leading to heathered curves as misty carpets cottonly crept down the surrounding hills.

Now this was a side trip.

And this is why that Colorado trip was great. Getting back to Alaska was like that first hot shower, that first sleep in bed or that first dish-washing after an extended wilderness trip. Suddenly, all those things are not taken for granted anymore.

So as various adventures pull me around Southcentral this summer, I will look for side trips — a walk along Quartz Creek on Devil’s Creek Trail or a visit to many of the short gems on Skilak Loop Road — as an excuse to stretch my legs.

And if anybody sees me and wonders why I’ve bothered to stop for such a quick hike, I’ve already got my answer ready.

“Just enjoying the silence.”

More in Sports

Kenai Central's Sawyer Vann controls Nikiski's Wyatt Maguire at 125 pounds Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. Vann notched a 7-6 victory. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Area wrestlers collect mat time before Thanksgiving break

Area wrestlers got in some mat time Tuesday before the Thanksgiving break.… Continue reading

Assistant coach Taylor Shaw leads the Kenai River Brown Bears during a game Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, against the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears start search for new head coach

The Kenai River Brown Bears issued a press release Friday about staff… Continue reading

Soldotna junior Liam Babitt holds a grip on South Anchorage’s Britten Hamilton during the 215-pound final of the Lancer Smith Fall Varsity 2021 Invite on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at the Menard Arena in Wasilla, Alaska. (Photo by Jeremiah Bartz/Frontiersman)
Soldotna crowns 4 champions at Lancer Smith

The Soldotna wrestling team finished fourth Friday and Saturday at the Lancer… Continue reading

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Bryce Monrean tries to find a way through the defense of the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues during a first-period power play Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Jr. Blues come back to take series from Bears

The Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues lost not only a 2020-21 season to… Continue reading

tease
Hockey roundup: SoHi sweeps in Kodiak; West wins End of Road tourney

The Soldotna hockey team swept Kodiak in the first high school games… Continue reading

A brown bear feeds on a salmon. (Photo by C. Canterbury/USFWS)
Refuge Notebook: Bears, uniquely built to respond to winter

With the new snow and temperatures dipping into the single digits, you… Continue reading

Kenai Central's Caden Warren surveys the ice against West at the End of the Road Tournament at Kevin Bell Arena in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Kenai, Homer hockey lose to open tourney

The Kenai Central and Homer hockey teams both opened the End of… Continue reading

Caden Triggs of the Kenai River Brown Bears celebrates his first-period goal against the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Brown Bears topple Jr. Blues

By JEFF HELMINIAK Peninsula Clarion The Kenai River Brown Bears received two… Continue reading

Most Read