Climbing Bear Lake on Bear Mountain in Sitka Alaska

On July 20, 2015, thanks to Brittany’s persistence, Kris, Brittany, and I finally did what we should have done many years ago: we climbed Bear Mountain to Bear Lake. Brit wanted to do an epic climb before returning to Oahu for her final semester of college.

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In the weeks prior to the climb, I asked a few people for specifics regarding the hike, such as where to start and best route. I got a few different answers and finally decided to start at the Green Lake Hydroelectric Project sign posted at the base of the final hill before arriving at the Medvejie Hatchery. (Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge with us!) I knew exactly where the sign is located because I pedaled to the hatchery ten or so times in the previous six weeks to fish for king salmon.

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We got dumped on the day before the hike and the weather was iffy right up to go time. Ever optimistic, we loaded our bikes into our van, drove to the gate on the hatchery road located about a third of a mile beyond the Herring Cove parking lot and trail. With our Texan dog, Jenna, leashed to my bike, we pedaled the 2.5 miles to the sign, powered up two GPSs, and hunted for the trailhead. After a few minutes of searching, we discovered the trail on the left side of the creek directly across from the sign and power pole marked “G74”.

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We stayed to the left of the creek for 30 yards or so before crossing and heading up toward the ridge. I was still holding onto Jenna’s leash because she’s a diagnosed and confirmed pathological squirrel chaser. On a previous hike up Bear Mountain beyond Beaver Lake last fall, Jenna’s obsession with squirrels resulted in her separation from her non-squirrel chasing human caretakers. She managed to find her way back down the trail alone to the Herring Cove parking lot where—due to my text message—Kris and David had arrived and intercepted her.

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Our ascent to the ridge from the creek was somewhat difficult and steep. At first we found reassurance when we discovered fluorescent orange marking tape hanging from the trees along our path. But the farther we hiked, the more we realized that marking tape is the signpost hung by people just as lost as we were. As I said to Kris, those are the markers that people might have set prior to falling off a cliff. Much farther up the mountain, we shook our heads at two markers that were indeed set on a stretch of rock almost steep enough to be called a cliff. The size of the trail provided much more reassurance than markers dangling from a branch.

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Sticking to the ridge proved to be safe and relatively easy. Within a few hours we summited at approximately 3000 feet and saw Bear Lake a half mile or so in the distance. The lake sits in a surprisingly big bowl perched on top of the mountains. At first glance, the lake appears to be nestled deep in the bowl with no escape, but climbing the ridge to the right of the lake, we saw that the surface of the water and the ridge line meet where a stream emerges and quickly flows down the steep mountain side. That location provided the best photo ops. The ever changing clouds made the photos all the more majestic.

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The GPS shows the distance from the trailhead to Bear Lake as 1.25 miles. We didn’t record the exact distance we climbed, but it was definitely more than 1.25 miles and with the steep grade we earned every step.

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From start to finish we hiked for some ten hours which included a stop at the lake for lunch, a nap, and photos. Fast hikers could do the hike in a fraction of that time.

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Our Bear Lake hike was a great way for Kris and me to share our 26th wedding anniversary with Brittany.

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Enjoy the photos. Better yet, next time let’s hike it together.

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