A close refuge to Anchorage is the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area (SRA) system. We have done a few canoe trips during the summer, but this would be our first winter trip. We reserved the James Lake Cabin and with a snow drought throughout the state we weren’t sure what the conditions would be like. Luckily the snow was still holding on in Nancy Lakes.
Be aware that the road doesn’t go all the way to the end of the road. Instead the winter Parking lot is just before the Bald Lake Parking Lot. In total, we traveled over 16 lakes. Our way out to James Lake would take us over 9 frozen lakes, using the canoe portages for our passage between lakes.
Our route out was via Bald, Shem Pete, Andrew, Jackknife, Frazier, Little Frazier, Lynx, Char, Owl and finally James Lake. The distance was 5.6 miles and took us about 1hr 40min. of skiing. The lakes were smooth and fast. Wind can whip up on you while you’re traveling on the longer lakes, but in the areas sheltered by trees it is nice and calm. Due to the conditions, there were a few portages where we chose to remove our skies and walk. There was more than once when I took a dive because of the icy and steep downhills.
Then we arrived at the cabin and settled in. This is by far my favorite cabin in the Nancy Lake system. No float planes can land on this lake and because it is in the middle of the system it is nice an secluded (quite). There is a new connector trail between the southern end of Lynx Lake and James Lake. The Lynx Creek had open water so we didn’t explore too far. This connector isn’t a nice easy clear route. There are trees that overgrow the creek and in summer it is a shallow and wouldn’t float a canoe with any weight in it. Yee bee warned, but if you do go let us know how it was 🙂
We went exploring a little bit more- to the creek.
As the sun went down, the northern lights came out. This was the best lights we have seen since we moved to Alaska. They were dancing with greens, purples, and pinks. A soul moving experience.
They kept coming and going, so we decided to play with fire until the next good round of solar activity showed up.
However, the clouds came in and we fell asleep under the windows watching for the dancing lights.
The next morning we said goodbye to James Lake and headed out to finish the loop. The second part of the loop would take us over 6 new lakes, and 10 in total. Our route back was via James Lake, Chicken, Big Noluck, Little Noluck, Milo Pond, Tanaina, Milo, Andrew, Shem Pete, and finally Bald Lake. Only slightly longer at 6.3 miles it took us 1hr 50min. of skiing to get back to the car.
We were quite happy that the sun came out.