Local guidebook author makes backcountry trails accessible
Energize your running this July by taking some of your workouts to the trails. This is particularly important if your target event takes you into the wilds of Alaska. Here you must learn to run light, stepping gingerly over roots to avoid tumbling in a heap on the trail. Novices to trails will notice that muscles and ten- dons are stressed in a different manner than they are on flat roads. I’m a firm believer that these variations in motion actually make one a strong runner.
When running on trails, expect some physical adjustment. Anticipate being a little sore in a good way the day after a challeng- ing outing on the trails. The variability of motion on the trails, the bounding, the twists and turns – all of this keeps it fun, kind of like childlike play.
July also promises a lower snowpack and ample daylight for an early or late start. The challenge is deciding where to go?
Look no further than the “Walk-About Guide to Alaska, the Front Range and the Anchorage Bowl,” written and updated in 2018 by Shawn R. Lyons. This guide is, hands down, the authority on hiking in Alaska. Shawn’s treks in Alaska mirror that Johnny Cash song
– “I’ve Been Everywhere,” – he’s been everywhere, too. You name
it – the Turnagain Arm Trail, Indian Valley, Flattop, McHugh Peak, Chester Creek, Powerline Pass, Wolverine Peak, Kincaid, Upper Gasline, Williwaw Lakes, Spencer Loop, Rabbit Lake, and on and on throughout greater Anchorage and the front range of the Chugach Mountains.
While Lyons has yet to record a song along that theme, he has taken time to pen a comprehensive listing of trails for us in a concise format. The 608-page book, has 12 chapters highlighting trails in particular areas. A final chapter covers useful resources, information sources (federal, state and community), cabin rentals and permitting. The information on how to access lands on the military base is particularly helpful along with permit parking for Chugach State Park.
The format is crisp and includes title, map, location, trail grade, trail condition, mileage, elevation gain, high point, normal hiking time, campsites, best time to hike and USGS maps.
Lyons grades the difficulty of routes on a scale from 1 to 7. Grade 1 and 2 trails can be run, while Grade 3 trails, such as Bird Ridge, are geared toward power hiking. Routes that are grades 4 through 7 will take one off designated trails and get progressively more difficult. Also a bonus is the detailed driving directions and walking ap- proaches to trailheads.
Sharing information about his backpack setup also is valuable for both novice and experienced hikers. It’s critical to be prepared for adverse weather, or for a potential injury. Pack content and organiza- tion demonstrates Lyons’ respect for journeying into the wild.
Some selections suitable for running include Kincaid Park’s Andrew Lekisch Trail and Mize Loop, as well as Hilltop Ski Area’s Spencer Loop and Lighted Loop Trail, and the Powerline Pass Trail at Flattop, Rabbit Creek Trail and Turnagain Arm Trail.
Some creative outings include circumnavigations of Anchorage (short and long options), Campbell Tract and Kincaid Park. The best part? All of these destinations do not require a massive road trip hundreds of miles outside the city. A major “bucket list” outing is The Grand Tour of the Front Range.
I wish this book was around when I first moved to Alaska back in 1987 – so many more places would have seemed less intimidating to tackle with this information at hand. If you are planning to hit the trails or want to celebrate a successful outing, consider carbo-loading or grabbing dinner at Villa Nova, a local favorite for fine Italian din- ing. If you are lucky, you’ll catch Lyons playing his classical guitar – yet another talent on top of his successful guidebook-writing career.
— Keep striding and smiling, Coach Mike