Despite the fact that it looked like there was still a fair bit of snow up on Gavan Hill, I decided that it would be a nifty thing to hike up and spend the night at the survival shelter on Harbor-Gavan Ridge. It was sunny and warm when I headed out at 5:30pm Monday evening. The trailhead sign said that it was 2 miles to Gavan Ridge and 3.75 miles to the shelter. I figured that I would have no trouble making it up while it was still light, given the long hours of daylight during the Summer in Sitka, especially when it is clear.

I made pretty decent time up the trail and its steps (Gavan Hill trail is known for the abudance of steps on it, at least among those who have hiked it.) I was carrying a fair load in my backpack, though I am not sure exactly how much. It definitely made a difference though as I hiked up the hill, so I had to take a number of short breaks along the way. I didn't see much snow along the trail until the lookout point. From there the amount of snow increased dramatically to the top of the ridge.

By the time I reached the top of the ridge, snow appeared to be fairly deep in most places. Fortunately it was fairly hard and so I didn't sink in much past my ankles or lower shins for the most part. Even still, it was work walking up the ridge in the snow. But the sun was still fairly high in the sky so I figured there was no rush and just took my time.

The boardwalk and gravel which makes up most of the trail along the ridge top was completely buried in snow, but there were some older tracks which I was able to follow. I made the mistake of failing to put on my gaiters when I hit the snow and it was not long before snow was goingdown over the top of my boot. I was creating enough heat hiking that cold feet were not a problem, but by the time I got to the shelter my feet were very pruny.

I arrived at the shelter around 9pm. 3.5 hours in snow with a pack is not a bad time going up Gavan Hill perhaps. The sun was still up, though the shadows were definitely longer. The shelter was half buried in snow and I was a little bit nervous about whether I would be able to get inside. As it turned out, a significant overhand, a door which opened in two parts, and perhaps someone's efforts to shovel out some of the snow around the entrance made it possible to get in.

My warmer clothes which I had sent up to me via mail had arrived and so I had brought some of them up Gavan with me. They came in handy for sleeping a bit warmer than I had a couple of nights earlier near Indian River falls. I suppose the enclosed shelter which kept the wind off didn't hurt either.

When I woke up and took a look outside, the sun was shining brightly. There was a marine layer of clouds which obscured my view of everything other than the tops of the various ridges and mountain peaks. In some ways you sort of get the feeling of being on top of the world when it is like this, and the gleaming snow still on the surrounding peaks just accentuated this.

Since the sun was warm and I didn't really have any reason to be back in town right away, I decided to spend some time just relaxing on the roof of the shelter. Plus that gave me a chance to spread my damp clothes and stuff out on the roof to dry in the sun. With the bright sun and the surrounding snow reflecting it, I figured I had better be careful or risk sunburn. I kept clothes covering me for most of the time, and when I was uncovered for a very long period, I used sunblock. But even so, it feels like one of my ears may have burned a little bit.

As I read, slept, played my clarinet, and just generally relaxed, the marine layer lifted somewhat to become more of a fairly low layer of clouds. Generally I was situated right near the top of this layer of clouds, or at least the sun still shown through it fairly well. But it did serve to leave me unable to see any of the surrounding landscape. Even though it would have been easy to follow my tracks back down, I decided to wait a while figuring that this layer of clouds would eventually burn off. Around 12:30, the clouds did start to burn off of Gavan.

I packed up my stuff and managed to leave the shelter by around 1:30 pm. I figured that I would be able to make better time going down than I had going up, though the first 1.5 miles or so of the hike back probably took about as long as it did coming up it the night before since it was all in the snow going up and down to follow the top of the ridge. Once I was back on the trail headed down Gavan hill things did go faster and I was back by around 4pm.

After having been sore coming down Indian River Trail a couple of days before, I sort of expected that I would be sore coming down off of Gavan. That was not the case, however, as I write this the evening of the 8 June, I am already starting to feel sore, so I imagine that I will be fairly sore tomorrow.

I really didn't like packing all of that weight. I need to figure out how to get by with less stuff. I also was not impressed with my dietary selections, so I will need to figure out better food choices, I think. This will especially be the case when I start to go on longer outings.

Home | Summer 1999