The first time we visited Eklutna Lake was in the summer of 2017. With Jasper strapped to my back, I approached a lake that was a good distance from the path. Some areas of the bank were dry and cracked. I had never seen mud cracked in patterns like that
before! I thought it was amazing and I was instantly intrigued. However, in contrast some areas of the bank were giant mud pits. At one point I had to abandon my shoe in the mud and come back for it later in the day. There was evidence that others had had the same problem. Yet apparently these unwary travelers hadn’t been as determined to rescue their shoes as I had. Despite my shoe incidence (and breaking my walking stick while trying to rescue it) I had fallen in love with this lake! Since my first visit to Eklutna, it has easily become my all time favorite stop!
Eklutna Lake is found within the third largest state park in the United States, Chugach State park. Chugach State park encompasses much of the area surrounding where Jasper and I live. The lake is fed by a glacier bearing the same name. It is a bit of a drive to get to this lake. However, just like the lake itself, the drive is beautiful! After exiting the Glen Highway, you drive about 10 miles on windy scenic roads to reach the lake. The roads can be a bit daunting, especially in the winter. It also doesn’t help that I often lose cellphone reception on my way out there, but you cant beat the view!
Each time we go, the lake has changed significantly. Sometimes it is placid and calm, others it is tortoise blue, and once it had waves comparable to the ocean! By the end of the summer the banks were no longer cracked. In late fall, the water was so high that the bank was barley visible!
Now it is the dead of winter and once again I have been drawn to this lake. It has most definitely changed again! Eklutna is frozen over and covered with snow (except where people have cleared areas for ice skating.) It’s beauty is almost unbelievable!
On foot we traveled out onto the frozen lake. Jasper and his friend enjoyed laying in the snow, throwing it at everyone, and sliding around on the cleared areas of ice. I feel that going on outing like this helps Jasper develop a determination and confidence that he will be carry throughout his life. Our current culture has deemed risk taking to be problematic. The outdoors offers numerous risks, and the lessons children gain from taking these risks can only help them later in life. I try my best to stand back and let Jasper take reasonable risks. While balancing on the ice he may fall. However, the worst that happens is that his knee is bruised. Yet, because I wasn’t standing over him, making sure that he didn’t get any bumps or bruises, he now knows that falling isn’t the end of the world. He knows that he can pick himself back up, and move on. In the process, Jasper is also learning about failure. That it is OK to make a mistake and fall, because all he has to do is pick himself back up and move on. This self reliance is imperative for successful life coping skills and it is wonderful that God gave us the perfect playground to teach these lessons on!
I was a bit disappointed that we were not in sunlight while out on the lake. If you are currently residing outside of Alaska, you may not understand this disappointment. However, during the winter months Alaska lacks the normal amount of sunlight that the rest of the United States takes for granted. I could see an area of the lake, far off that was being touched by the sun. I am a poor judge of distance and believed that we might be able to reach that sunlight. However, the friends that we were with said that it was a 3+ mile walk out to that area of the lake. With a couple of two-year-olds and the temperature hovering around -15, that wasn’t a real option. Nonetheless, we did walk towards it for awhile. Then, a loud eerie noise sounded across the lake. It may have been an avalanche far off, but we couldn’t see any evidence of that. The friends who we were with (who have been in Alaska over 10 years, so I just assume they know more about this stuff than I do) thought it may have been the ice in the lake cracking when the sun hit it. When I got home my husband mentioned it might have been an earthquake. I looked up earthquake activity for the area around the time we were out there. Earthquakes are quite common in Alaska and we actually had a small one while I was writing this! There was a 4.3 magnitude quake a short distance from us, about the time we heard the noise. So, whatever we heard, it may have been caused by this nearby quake. Either way, I found it very interesting!
After heading to the west to investigate a strange brown shape I’ve been wondering about since my first trip to the lake, we found what we believe is what is leftover from
the old Eklutna Dam. Eklutna Lake supplies water to the city of Anchorage. To my knowledge, there is a new dam. However, I have never seen it. Whatever this structure is, it was awesome to get to be so close to it! The history here is amazing!
I love that I am able to take Jasper on adventures like this! Being able to explore the world around us is an amazing way to learn! I hope to foster in him a lifelong love of learning. Though I had a degree in education, and I do see the benefit of the classroom environment, I believe that hands on exploration is the best way to learn. Often hands on learning isn’t easily facilitated in a traditional classroom. Being able to employ the world around us as a classroom is ideal in my mind. There is so much that the outdoors can offer to children, even those as young as Jasper. The gross motor skills alone that he was able to practice on this trip were extensive. He climbed over snow piles and up and down snow covered hills. He balanced while walking on the cleared ice of the lake. On multiple occasions he climbed into the sled and balanced himself while he was pulled over uneven terrain.
If you are planning a visit to the Anchorage area, I highly suggest a trip to Eklutna lake! Year round, it is a great destination. In addition to hiking, there is camping, biking, ATV tracks and boating activities available. If you are out here during the winter, people clear areas of the lake to skate. During this trip we even saw someone who had fixed a sled full of supplies around her waist and seemed to be traveling to the far side of the lake! There is always an adventure for us to find, even with little ones in tow!
To see more of our adventures visit us at: https://www.instagram.com/fromthestates/ !