After working with an American Trails Society work party on maintaining and improving both ends of this trail for ten days, it was time to go for an Independence Day stroll and experience the trail in its entirety. I started out from the Eagle Summit end and was quickly enveloped in the clouds by the time I reached the top of the first set of switchbacks. My commitment was to meet the driver who was to pick me up at the other end of the trail (Twelve Mile Summit) twelve hours (and twenty seven miles) later.
At times the clouds would lift sufficiently to reveal panoramic views of soaring ridgelines and deep valleys. At other times the encircling cloud and hustling wind made me focus up close on the trail immediately at my feet and the flowers blooming in the tundra through which the trail passes. In places the trail crossed soggy tundra, in others it crossed dry tundra on wind swept ridge tops, and everywhere it traversed above the tree line, so the potential for distant views was always there.
Navigation along the trail was problematic at times when in the cloud, as no visible trace of a tread exists on several of the high ridge lines, and trail markers are placed sufficiently far apart that it is not possible to see even one fourth of the distance from one marker to the next under cloud-shrouded conditions. On the other extreme for required route finding skills, the hiker encounters a continuous board plank walk more than a mile in length down one side of a saddle where the tundra is particularly wet, and up the other.
The Pinnell Mountain NRT provides the hiker with an extremely rewarding ridge-line experience, whether day hiking it as I did or taking the usual three days to backpack it. But, no matter what month it might be, the wise hiker should be prepared for any kind of severe weather. My colleagues, who left Eagle Summit at the same time as I, but were backpacking the trail, came down to Twelve Mile Summit two days later in a snowstorm, with the snow being driven horizontally!
Central Alaska is a beautiful land!!