The air was cool and the autumn-yellowed brush along the trail was dripping from recent rains. A dense fog reduced visibility to about 400 yards, adding to the chill.
It was just after 9 a.m. on October 3rd when I signed the trailhead register and started up the Lost Lake Trail from Primrose, hoping the “partly cloudy” weather forecast for the day might bring some blue sky and sunshine.
Following the gradual trail through spruce and hemlock trees, I kept wondering when the fog would lift and open up a view of one of the most beautiful areas on the Kenai Peninsula.
This trail has a special meaning for me because my mom and I hiked part of it nearly 70 years ago, when I was about five.
My family knew the gold miner, Charlie Hubbard, who built the lower part of the trail back in 1911, to access his mine. At about mile 3-1/2 of the 7-1/2-mile trail to Lost Lake, you can see the remains of his old cabin along with other mining ruins.
My mother told me that when feeding miners at the cabin, Charlie’s wife Orabelle insisted on proper decorum: no dirty hands or swearing, and food was served on a tablecloth with porcelain china plates and proper silverware.
Hubbard was one of those larger-than-life Alaskan pioneers. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, he had successful business dealings at the Kennecott copper mine near McCarthy; and then around 1910, acquired several claims on the Kenai Peninsula. He was a friend and mentor to my father, who had his own mining aspirations. Residing in Seward, we often visited Hubbard’s log home at Primrose on the shore of Kenai Lake.
The sun peeks out: At about 11 a.m. the fog finally began to lift, providing brief glimpses of autumn’s color changes on the mountain slopes and the peaks lightly dusted in white snow, like powdered sugar. With no wind or bugs, and the sun growing brighter, this was shaping up to be a perfect day!
A mile from Lost Lake, I departed from the main trail and hiked west to look for a route toward Mt. Primrose. It lies to the north of Martin Creek Valley directly across from the most prominent feature in the area, Mt. Ascension, which has two peaks. The highest of the two is 5,710 feet. In 1999, I summited the lower of the peaks with the late Dave Gahm, who died in September 2008 of natural causes during a Kenai Peninsula canoe trip.
I couldn’t find a definable trail over toward Mt. Primrose, but quickly realized I was perfectly lined up to drop down to the Lost Lake’s Peninsula, which looked like an ideal lunch stop. Sitting in front of dwarf hemlock trees facing due south in the sun, it felt like summer. I checked the thermometer attached to my pack that had been sitting in the shade, and it read 56 degrees Fahrenheit.
Walking to the end of the peninsula, I spooked out a stocky-looking shorebird that I’ve seen before in the area. I promised myself I’d dive into my bird books and try for an identification later.
Alpine paradise: People have described the Lost Lake area as a “touch of heaven,” and it’s easy to understand why. The alpine meadows lie in rounded, north-to-south ridges that are pocked by small groves of deep-green dwarf hemlock trees and clumps of willow bushes. From summer to fall, the green landscape is transformed into a wonderland of reds, oranges, yellows and browns.
Jagged Mt. Ascension towers over the lake on its western side and far to the east, glaciers above Snow River’s north and south forks encrust the flanks of the Kenai Mountains. It is a true paradise, and when hikers reach the meadows, many are compelled to sing “the hills are alive” from the hit musical “The Sound of Music.”
It’s a long hike, but it’s on a very well-maintained trail that, to me, is angle-friendly.
On this recent trip I took a lot of photos because I knew words would fail to capture what I saw. We have certain days every year that really stand out, that we savor, and this was one of them.
Throughout the day I only saw two people, both with dogs. One was a runner, apparently going all the way through to the southern trailhead. The other was a middle-aged lady who apparently lived in the immediate area. Weary but in good spirits, I signed out on the trailhead register at 6:15 p.m., nine hours after I started. It was indeed a day to treasure.
Note: At Mile 17 of the Seward Highway, turn west and travel 1 mile to the Primrose Campground. Parking is located in the large parking area before entering the campground. Trail is closed to saddle/pack stock from April 1- June 30 and motorized vehicles from May 1-November 30. Miners with permits may use motorized vehicles on the trail all year.