On July 7th at the tail end of a scorching hot July 4 weekend, hundreds of recreationists flocked to Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park to find some relief along its shore and in its frigid, glacier-fed waters.
There is no official estimate on how many people were there on Sunday, July 7–probably close to 500. And that Sunday was also an authorized “motorized use” day, bringing scores of four-wheelers to the area. Chugach State Park Ranger Keith Wilson notes that there were even more on Thursday, July 4, who came to swim, boat, hike, bike, picnic and sunbathe.
While the air temperature ranged in the mid to upper 80s, park officials estimate the Eklutna Lake water temperature was about 53 degrees. Yet, several intrepid souls, as well as their dogs, were braving the chilly water.
I hiked around to the opposite side of the lake, or western shore, and found some shade under a tree at the edge of the woods. From about half a mile away it was hard to tell so many people were gathered in what looked like an Alaskan version of Waikiki Beach.
Colorful kayaks were out and about across the 6-1/2-mile-long lake.
The barks of dogs and the laughter of happy children carried across the water. Some enterprising folks brought portable chairs and sun canopies, I enjoyed a short picnic, comprised of a sandwich and a drink chilled by ice cubes that I’d triple-sealed in zip-lock bags. I was relieved, even surprised, that bugs didn’t attack me because at my location near the woods I was somewhat sheltered from a light, but merciful breeze.
Walking back toward the north shore where most of the people were congregated, I passed a woman who observed: “You came out of the woods.” My coy reply: “Those guys out in the water have the right idea.”
In my ornery way, on this exceptionally hot day, I wanted to keep her guessing as to where I came from and what I had been doing “in the woods,” where there is no trail.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired elementary school teacher.