About 3:30 p.m. November 4th the sun we had enjoyed for most of the day slipped below the mountains to our south and the temperature dropped by at least five degrees.
We knew we were running out of daylight, but with resolve, we kept climbing higher toward Point Hope’s 3,708-foot summit, located near the community of Hope on the Kenai Peninsula.
“We still have about 1,000 feet to reach the top,” I told hiking buddy Scott Sims. “It would take us about an hour and a half to get there and would put us kind of late getting back.”
A cold breeze whisked across the ridges from the northwest, and we ducked behind some rocks for a break. It didn’t take us long to agree it was time to turn around.
“I think we’ve done pretty well for the day for the amount of time we’ve been out,” Scott said. I agreed, and before 4 p.m., we were on our way down aware that we’d been robbed of an hour of afternoon daylight by the November 4th switch off Daylight Saving Time.
Getting started: We’d begun our hike at about 11:45 a.m. and were glad to see only a few inches of snow on the roughly 7.5- mile (round trip) trail, which was improved in recent years by the U.S. Forest Service. What was once a very steep ascent now has a broader tread way, with long switchbacks that make the trail suitable for family outings.
The trail crosses steep slopes, however, that cross potential avalanche areas.
With snow accumulations later in winter, the trail could become unsafe. Spring to fall are generally the best times to hike this trail. We went this late in the year knowing that the snow accumulation was low.
One generally spots wildlife on this trail. On a September 2016 hike with Eagle River’s Pete Panarese, we observed several goats on the way to the summit, and from the top saw Beluga whales swimming near in Cook Inlet. On the descent, a black bear swiftly crossed the trail few hundred yards ahead of us. Scott and I noticed Snowshoe hare tracks along the side of the trail, and higher up, the shallow tracks of Willow ptarmigan.
As we worked out way back down the trail, the Chugach Mountains ringing Cook Inlet were beginning to shift into sunset alpenglow, a salmon-pink that slowly painted the sky into a deep lavender and cobalt-blue.
“It’s a great time to be out,” Scott remarked.
I agreed, unconcerned that we missed the summit and that we might have to finish the last mile with headlights.
Below us, lights of the small community of Hope were blinking on, and across Turnagain Arm, we could see car headlights steadily moving along the Seward Highway at the base of the mountains.
I told Scott that Hope was my all-time favorite town in Alaska.
“People will tell me nothing is going on in Hope – that there’s hardly anything there, and I reply: “Precisely.”
But more than 100 years ago a lot was happening, when thousands of gold seekers swarmed to the area and established the community of Sunrise and farther west, Hope, at the mouth of Resurrection River.
The latter town was established in 1896 and appropriately named Hope, after a young prospector named Percy Hope.
“I first visited Hope back in the 1950s when my parents lived in Seward,” I commented. “Some of the old log houses are still around. I’ve always loved the quietness of Hope, which I can guess is the exact opposite of what it was like back in the early 1900s when the gold rush frenzy was building.”
It was dark by the time we reached the car, but the temperature was not unpleasant– still in the low 20s. We agreed it was rejuvenating to get out and hike in such an exquisitely beautiful area.
And perhaps best of all, it was great to not hear a political advertisement for the entire day!
Getting there: At Mile 56.5 of the Seward Highway, turn west onto the Hope Highway after crossing the Six-Mile Creek bridge. Drive 17.8 miles, take a left 500 feet before Porcupine Campground, and drive ¼ mile to the trailhead.