Hiking Hunter Creek Canyon

Hiking Hunter Creek Canyon

March 31, 2018 0 Comments

Hiking Hunter Creek Canyon

story by Anne Sanders | Photos by Cecil Sanders / IG: @anne.sanders.374 & @cecilsandersphotography

 

Cecil and I discovered Hunter Creek by accident. While on a drive up Knik River Road one day we crossed a bridge that ran over a clear stream with a large rocky bed. On one side of the road the creek ran out of a tall steep canyon, and on the other side the water rushed into a wide braided creek bed scattered with bleached dead trees and bordered by forest.

Hunter Creek Canyon

Hunter Creek Canyon

We knew that the creek had to be a tributary of the Knik River. What we didn’t know was how far into the canyon we could go until the water level of the creek became too high to cross or the canyon became too narrow. It was time to explore.

Equipped with Xtra Tuffs and bear spray we clamored down the slope from the bridge to the side of the creek and headed into the canyon. After a little ways the canyon curved and the road and bridge behind us disappeared. With every zig and zag of the canyon the creek curved from one side to the other. We were forced to cross the stream several times. At each crossing we’d challenge the limit of our boots and take extra care to pick the best, most-shallow route.

Hunter Creek Canyon

Hunter Creek Canyon

The flow of water was sometimes a wide and burbling stream, and at others a thunderous torrent. As we moved through the canyon the sun would disappear leaving us chilled by the breeze blowing off the water. But just a few more steps and we’d be back in the warm sun. Eventually the channel became impassable, so we turned back, but knew that we’d return to Hunter Creek. 

 

 

It was near the end of winter on a sunny March day when we ventured back to Hunter Creek. The canyon floor was covered in deep snow. There were areas of open water and then the creek would disappear under layers of snow and ice to appear a ways later. Clues of where its path went while it was not visible could be seen in the sunken indentation of the snow and in the sound of rushing water. There was a clear trail through the snow that others had taken, so we decided to follow it, trusting that those who’d come before us had chosen their route wisely.

Hunter Creek Canyon

Crossing the stream was a different kind of hazard now. We were forced to cross ice bridges. It was hard to guess how thick the ice was, and how deep the water was beneath them. Usually there was open water right next to path we were following. At each crossing we had to measure the risk versus the reward of traveling deeper into the canyon. We couldn’t get enough of this beautiful wonderland of cliff faces, rock formations, and walls of ice made from streams falling down from the sides of the canyon.

Hunter Creek Canyon

Before we were ready, the risk in our minds became too great and we turned back. We felt safer on the way back, knowing the bridges we’d crossed had held our weight once, so would likely handle us again.

We’ve been back to Hunter Creek many time since those first summer and winter excursions. Each time is an exciting discovery when we see how the creek has changed course since our last visit. It’s a simple creek, like hundreds of others across Alaska, but it’s a special place we can go to when we’re wanting a small adventure.

Hunter Creek Canyon




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