One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Bird Creek Trail
Bird Creek Trail begins in a birch forest and climbs into an alpine area above Turnagain Arm. It is one of the first hikes open to sufferers of cabin fever. In early spring, warm Chinook winds blowing from Prince William Sound over Portage Pass into Turnagain Arm, melt snow and dries the trail along the southern exposed hills. The southern exposure brings early flowers to an area surrounded by snow. Spring hikers often find an open spot exposed to the sun and attempt to obtain a preseason tan by spreading a space blanket and basking in the season’s first rays.
The trail will take a hiker to a saddle at elevation 4,650 feet. Looking north, hikers get a view of the headwaters of Ship Creek.
A few years ago, before the trail was marked, we bucked our way to the saddle between Bird and Ship Creeks. It was a fall hike. The trail was dry and free of snow. Arriving at the saddle at midday, we stopped for lunch. As we ate, we imagined we were the area’s first visitors. It seemed we had stepped back in time and were discovering Alaska. It was wonderful to survey the valleys and see sheep on the mountaintops. Perhaps the first men to have done so. We were alone in a time-locked land, and the feeling was grand.
As we proceeded over the saddle into Ship Creek Valley, we were immediately brought out of our time warp into the 20th century. There on the hillside were the remains of earlier hikers’ lunch. They had packed in Government Issue C rations and had scattered the cans over a large area. We picked up their mess, but our hike had been desecrated. The experience forcibly drove home the need to pack out what was packed in.
As we returned to civilization carrying the remains of someone else’s bad manners, I was reminded of a thought expressed to me ages ago by a teacher long since departed, “You can tell a man’s character by the garbage he leaves behind.”