Chena Dome |
Region: Fairbanks uplands / Chena Hot Springs Rd
Trailhead: Milepost 50.5 Chena Hot Springs Rd
Date: June 8-10, 2007
Elevation Gain: a lot, 3,400' HP-TH, ups and downs 4K'
Links: DNR trail info | DNR Handout - PDF
Having done all the other trails in the region, I only had the big strenuous one left, around Chena Dome. Like any high ridge route, there are very few water sources. So you have to do them early in the summer, after the snow melt. I only had 2.5 days for over 30 miles, so I decided to go as light as possible. I used my daypack, and my new ultralight sleeping bag and bivy sack. Only thing I had to strap to the outside was my thermarest. I would have to rely on puddles for my water, as I couldn't carry all of what I needed for 3 days.
So I started off from the upper trailhead of the loop, on a warm sunny day, in my tank top. The first push up to the upper ridge was the majority of the elevation gain for the day. But there were many ups and downs along the way.
The Chena Dome trail didn't get as devastated by the wildfire in 2004, as did the Granite Tors trail. Only a few blackened trees here and there. Once high up on the ridge, I didn't see any more trees until the end of day 2
After quite a few ups and downs along the ridge I found the remains of an airplane. The area is notorious for fog, and one should always have a GPS to help navigate, as the cairns along the way are far apart, and the ridges would be like a maze if you couldn't see.
After the plane it was a short push up to the "summit" of Chena Dome, the highest point in the region. I brought my old analog Nokia phone, with the intention of checking in with a friend in Fairbanks (which I could see off in the distance). But the various antennas and other gear on top of the summit interfered with my phone, and I had no reception. Too bad, as this was a solo hike, and I saw no one the entire time.
Once I had my fill of the summit I hike down the ridge to find a nice place to camp. I found an area of ridge with a nice rocky backdrop to block the wind. So I set up my bivy sack and relaxed, as midnight sun swung around the sky
Woke up rather early, and set about making breakfast and making water from a disgusting puddle nearby. If I wanted better water, I would have to drop over a thousand feet in elevation to the boggy stream below. Today would be mostly downhill, so I could cover a lot of distance
Once I got a bit farther away from Chena Dome, there were some off-roading trails for 4-wheelers, and I could see a (gold) mine off in the distance. The Alaska range was also barely visible. But due to the distance and the haze, getting a decent photograph was nigh impossible. (Look in photos: 67,68 and pano 28) Dropping off the highest part of the ridge after making the turn to the east, I saw the trail shelter, and decided to take a short break and investigate. If I had more time, I may have made this stop 2 along the trail. The cabin was small, and only had basic gear on the inside.
This side of the ridge loop was more vegetated and green that the other side. The farther east I got, the better the views of the Granite Tors ridge got. You can barely make out the bumps of the tors on the ridge line
Now I had to decide where to make camp for the night. It was a bit windy so I wanted to find a more sheltered area, but being in the "trees" or underbrush isn't safe for seeing the bear coming. So I comprised and found the best location on the leeward side of the ridge. I couldn't complain of the view I got out of my bivy sack!
With the sun never really setting, it's hard to get much sleep, but I did manage enough to get out of my tent early. It would be the shortest of the 3 days, as I had a birthday party to attend in the evening with freshly caught salmon - Yum!
So I made quick work of the descent off of the ridge. Checking out the views of Angel Rocks, across the road. That was my first hike in Alaska, and went back a few times because of it's short pretty trail. Since I didn't bring my bike, I had to close the distance of the not exactly perfect loop hike. I didn't want to hike along the road, so I figured the motorized trail connecting the two ends of the loops would be nice. I forgot about all the water and bogs down in the valley. The first couple giant puddles I came to, I diligently found my way around, or took off my hiking boots and put on sandals. By the time I got to the stream on the last photo, I was done. No way around it. And putting boots back on after sandals for a stream crossing, on mile 30-something backpack wasn't going to happen. So I finished the backpack in the boggy woods with my Teva's!