Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Hand Operated Tram at Winner Creek Trail

We woke to blue skies and warm weather this morning, so we decided to have a real Alaskan adventure today and try something totally new. About 30-45 minutes south of Anchorage is the scenic town of Girdwood. Girdwood is known for it's skiing--the Alyeska Ski Resort in particular. There are lots of great hiking trails in Girdwood, but behind the Alyeska Prince Hotel is the Winner Creek Trail, and here lies our adventure!

First, I'd just like to say that this trail is fantastic. It is a mixture of gravel, dirt and boardwalks, and winds through the most beautiful wooded land you have ever seen. There are bridges over rushing streams and waterfalls, wild blueberries growing within easy reach, and plenty of log benches scattered along the way if you need a break. We didn't see any wild animals along the way, but we were temporarily adopted by Black Lab and a Husky who seemed to think we needed their protection. They were very polite and were great company for part of the hike. (Their owners were walking behind us, and apparently were too slow for the dogs' taste!)
After a brisk 2.5 mile hike through the woods and up and down along the gorge, we reached the hand operated tram that crosses Winner Creek Gorge. It was a little intimidating as first glance, because there is no railing separating you from the gorge, just a small platform to stand on to bring the tram to you. People on each side can help pull, as well as the riders in the tram itself. The tram has a 400 pound weight limit, so we broke into pairs. (I wasn't taking any chances on breaking the lines and falling down into the gorge!) The tram is a little metal box that you step into and shut the door. The sides and bottom look similar to a chain link fence, but much heavier, so you can see the water below you as you cross. After I got over my initial nerves and pulled away from the side, it was a blast! We crossed over the gorge, and then back again. The kids loved it, too. I admit, Russ did most of the pulling, but it wasn't too hard to do. Gravity takes over on the first part because the ropes drop a little toward the center of the gorge, and then you have to pull harder to get it up the little incline on the other side. Everyone there is really helpful, and people on the opposite side help pull you over. In turn, you help them go back the other direction.
You can continue on the trail for another mile past the tram to the Crow Creek Mine, but we were pretty tired. After a snack near the gorge, we started back along the 2.5 mile trek to Alyeska. This would have to be my favorite hike here so far. The Tram was definitely a reward that was worth the walk. We'll save the Mine adventure for another day.

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