It was a clear but cold January day several years ago and the snow machine trail had enough loose snow on top for good cross-country skiing.
We had just passed close to someone’s homestead and it made me nervous, but I learned from posted signs that this was an open-access, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trail. As long as we stayed on the trail, we were not trespassing on anyone’s private property, including a large section owned by the Chickaloon Native Corporation.
Not to be confused with South Anchorage’s trail to Wolverine Peak, this trail is located northeast of Palmer and is accessed by taking the Clark-Wolverine Road, about 2-1/2 miles from Palmer via the old Glenn Highway. The Clark-Wolverine Road makes a “T” after about a mile. Turn left and follow the road to its end at Wolverine Lake, where the multi-use trail begins.
This trail should also not be confused with the Wolverine Creek Trail, which heads south and directly into the Talkeetna Mountains from near the bridge that spans Wolverine Creek.
Heading in a generally easterly and northeasterly direction, the trail we were on winds through spruce, birch and aspen forest and roughly parallels the Matanuska River. After a few miles the trail enters rolling hills and views begin opening up to the north, where you can look across the valley to Sutton, the Eska hills, and rugged Granite Peak, at 6,729-feet.
Brent Voorhees and I had no idea how far the trail would take us, but the map indicated there was an airstrip about six miles from Wolverine Lake. I was intrigued by the area because on a previous trip of only a few miles I’d seen large wolf tracks from what appeared to be a small pack. Because the trail is open to four-wheelers and other motorized vehicles, I assume the area has been heavily hunted over the years.
The terrain became hillier, and because some of the descents were a little fast for this skier, I sometimes removed skis and carried them. Most of the trail was over gentle terrain, however, and in about 2-1/2 hours we approached some old abandoned buildings – all in a state of disrepair. It looked as if horses were once kept here, and I thought I’d read about a homesteader-hunting guide working out this way many years ago.
Whenever I come upon old dwellings like this it makes me pause and reflect on those who spent part of their lives there. What were their plans and dreams? What kind of experiences did they have, especially with wildlife? What were their conversations like? Why did they leave and where did they go?
Not far from the buildings we came upon the airstrip, which looked like it might still be functional for small aircraft – perhaps only in winter for planes equipped with skis. Who knows how much brush had grown up under the snow?
The trail looked as if it veered uphill to the right, or south, but we didn’t proceed any further. The sun had already dipped below the mountains and the temperature, already quite low, was getting lower.
From this point we were still a good eight to nine miles west of Pinnacle Mountain, one of the more prominent features in the area, and at least 10-12 miles from Kings Mountain.
Skiing this trail left me with more questions than answers, and since that trip I’ve come up empty in learning anything more. Did the trail continue east toward Pinnacle Mountain? Would one even reach the next big drainage, Carpenter Creek? I assume that locals keep such information close to the vest – thus one sees no information on one of the easiest, most accessible places: the internet.
The ski back was uneventful, except that we spooked out a couple of grouse. The temperature was well south of zero by the time we reached the car, and the ebbing light left the mountains with a pink glow.
I’m not sure what the winter trail would be like with a fat-tire bike or in summer with a mountain bike, and I haven’t yet gone back to give it a try. Such trails tend to be muddy and rutty in spring and any kind of travel at that time only makes them worse. I would think that mid-summer to fall would be the best times to try it.
The main thing to remember about this trail, as I said before, is to STAY ON THE TRAIL, because it is adjacent to a considerable amount of private property.
Editor’s Note: Frank E. Baker is a member of the ECHO News team and an avid outdoorsman. He is a freelance writer living in Eagle River with his wife, Becky, who is a retired school teacher.