Towering above Skagway’s horizon are a pair of peaks called the Twin Dewey Peaks. At their bases, they each nestle circular tarn lakes, which are lakes formed by a glacier. I had never seen these lakes for myself, but I knew it wasn’t a hike to skip.
It’s a long hike, 9 1/2 miles and 3,700 feet, but I wasn’t going to wake up early on my precious day off! I woke up slowly, went out to eat, then got on the trail at 10:00 a.m. It was rainy when I started out, but my mantra for rainy days is “I’ve been wet before” This phrase reminds me that I’ve survived discomfort and it won’t kill me, however unpleasant. It works for pretty much any uncomfortable situation, just fill in the blank. “I’ve been ______ before” The only words I refuse to put in the blank are ‘cold’ and ‘hungry’. I’ve been both, but I’m not going to willingly put myself there!
The first section of the trail, about a 30 minute hike, leads to Lower Dewey Lake. I have been there before, so I went right on by, turning at the fork with the sign marked ‘Devil’s Punch bowl’
Up the trail I went, on the switchbacks, over the rocks and roots. I had brought my phone and earbuds to listen to music, but I left it in my pack and instead enjoyed the sound of my labored breathing and the pine needles shifting beneath my feet. After an hour of hiking, I reached a bridge and a set of stairs. Hikers before me had written their names and quotes on the railings. My favorite was “All who wander are not lost”.
The fog was hanging low over Upper Dewey Lake when I reached it. I removed my shoes and dipped my toes in the lake for a minute, then looked around the two cabins that are on the bank. The newer one has a porch on two sides and a lock on the door; you have to pay for a reservation to stay in it. The other is a little log cabin left from gold rush days, and is free to use. I sat inside the dark log cabin and ate my lunch of smoked jerky and granola bars. Food never tastes so good as when you are on the trail!
I followed the trail up from Dewey into a field of boulders. The fog closed in around me, blocking any view there might have been. I picked my way across the rocks carefully. I suppose it was good the view was obscured, because staying upright on the slippery rocks required all my attention. I put my eye on every rock before putting my foot down, and tested the step before transferring all my weight. I had a few close calls, but escaped unscathed. Soon the path leveled out, leading me past solitary car-sized boulders left to the wind and weather by a glacier thousands of years ago.
As I made my way up the path, and the fog cleared for a moment, and I got my first glimpse of the punch bowl below me. The tarn lake crouched at the bottom of the basin, luring me in with its tantalizingly blue water. Large rocks rimmed the lake, as well as patches of stubby spruce trees, stunted by the harsh conditions on this forbidding terrain. A stretch of snow, stubbornly clinging to the north facing slope, sneered down at me. The whole vista was a slap in the face of summer, and a rebellion against mild weather.
I descended into the basin, keeping an eye on the lake. The water was perfectly still, and the only sound was of the stream gushing from it. The water was irresistible and inviting to my aching legs, so I waded out on a partially submerged rock. I peered over the edge, into the deep water below. Tiny red fish darted erratically through the water, rising to the surface occasionally to nab mosquitoes, the ones that weren’t buzzing around my head in a cloud, anyway. How’s that for an example of the food chain;)
The hike down was harder than climbing up. My legs, which were weary from the ascent, ached with the constant flex-and-release of the descent. I wanted to be able to move the next day, so I took time to stretch and soak in an icy waterfall. That combination worked like a charm, because the next day there was only a faint trace of soreness in my legs.
I completed the hike in 5 1/2 hours. It was the longest solo hike I’ve completed to date, and one of the few that I would eagerly do again.