One Last Cast – Chapter 42

One Last Cast

From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine

By Evan Swensen

Chapter Forty-Tw0

Trent Lewis and Clark Clawson

Matanuska River Park Trail system can rightly claim the shortest hiking trail in the largest state in the union. This trail system includes recently constructed paths as short as 45 yards.

Cleared paths begin at four trailheads in the park camping area. A fifth trailhead near the fenced softball complex is the start of another trail. All the trails loop into or connect with the trails of the system. This is an ideal group of trails to take youngsters, even toddlers, to give them a beginning appreciation for wilderness. Although the trails are never far from the camping area, they give the impression of backcountry, especially to the young and those familiar only with city life, sidewalks, and paved streets. These short trails are good hikes to introduce kids to backpacking, but never let them go on their own unattended. Trails near the icy cold, fast-moving Matanuska River could be dangerous for young, inexperienced hikers.

Following the trails of the system will take hikers along paths leading to and paralleling the Matanuska River. For the young, following a map furnished free by the park to areas with exciting names is a never-to-be-forgotten thrill. Names like Long Pond Trail, Duck Pond Trail, Duck Pond Spur, Swan Pond, and River Spur Trail conjure images in their minds of backcountry and wilderness intrigue.

My 8-year-old grandson, Trent, and I hiked the system on a July afternoon. It was a special thrill for him to talk to the park director and obtain a map and instructions. He listened intently and plotted our course on the map with a pencil. It took less than an hour, under Trent’s leadership, to complete the trails he had marked. He carefully guided us from loop to loop and safely past the dangerous Matanuska River. We saw birds; dog tracks closely resembling those of an enormous wolf.

From Trent’s conversation upon our return to civilization, in his mind, we had accomplished a feat equal to climbing Mt. McKinley. Hearing him explain to his grandmother about all the things we did along the miles of backcountry wilderness trails, I think he thought we had been gone for weeks, not minutes. I look forward to being guided again in the wilderness by Trent “Lewis and Clark” Clawson.


Evan, who lives in Anchorage, has 9 children, 25 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren. As a pilot, he has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time in Alaska, in both wheel and float planes. He is a serious recreation hunter and fisherman, equally comfortable casting a flyrod or using bait, or lures. He has been published in many national magazines and is the author of four books.