Wynn Nature Center trails enjoyable in winter
The 150-acre Wynn Nature Center, located off North Skyline Drive, is a year-round, multi-natural-environment recreation area providing plenty of winter-time exploration opportunities and fun, including the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies' Wynn-ter Family Fun Days.
Depending upon the weather and the amount of snow present, you can snowshoe, hike (don your grips) and/or ski the trails, which are also great for toboggan-pulling the tiny tykes.
The trail system makes up a small portion of the Wynn, the remainder of the land is managed as a wildlife refuge that provides an important undeveloped migration corridor for moose and black bears. Moose are present all year long; you'll see their snow-prints everywhere. Bring hot chocolate and some snacks for a winter trail picnic.
From the intersection of East End and East Hill roads, drive 2.5 miles up E. Hill Rd. to Skyline Drive. Keep straight and drive north 1.6 miles on Skyline Drive and then turn left (west) into the Wynn Nature Center parking.
From the parking lot, take the boardwalk past the large glacial erratic boulder, holding the Wynn plaque, into the wind-protected spruce forest. Walk about 100 feet to the boardwalk intersection, take a right and walk another 100 feet to the Daisy Lee Bitter Interpretive Center log cabin and outhouse/restrooms. The cabin is closed in winter, but you can pick up a trail map from the cabin-front rack, which will help guide you around the multiple intersecting trails.
From the cabin, you can continue on the handicapped-accessible 800-foot-long loop boardwalk that includes Braille-augmented interpretive signs with lovely raised ceramic impressions. Go past the meadow edge wildflower viewing platform and back to the entrance and cabin.
The trail system contains five-plus miles of looping intersecting trails, two viewing platforms, strategically located natural-log benches and numerous interpretive stations. Use the trail map to guide you.
The trail system is maintained in winter by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. If this is your first time at the Wynn, I recommend arriving at or before noon, so that you have plenty of trail time before sunset. And consider the following journey: Beginning at the Daisy Lee cabin walk the Gladys Church Trail past the Glady's Church outdoor meeting and fire ring, to the Marie Church Trail and by your first bench.
All along your Wynn trail roamings, you'll move back and forth between various environments - including the beautiful blue-colored Lutz and white spruce forest, with many fascinating stump-feed platform fungi and copious lichens, meadows and bogs. I find the transition zones between them to be particularly beautiful and interesting. Just past the first bench, take a right at the signs for the Lutz-Fireweed Loop and Bog trails.
Keep right and follow the signs to the Bog Spur Trail that leads about 50 meters to a viewing platform providing long, lovely views across the open bog and meadows. The bog/meadow environments, which in summer are impassable, offer many off-trail winter snowshoe and/or skiing adventures. Retrace your steps to and continue along the Lutz-Fireweed Loop Trail. Follow this loop for about a mile as you wander through inter-fingered meadow and open canopy forest environments, past spruce islands surrounded by larger meadows that are graced with the natural abstract stock art of fireweed and pushki. After about a mile, you'll reach the Elliot Fisher Memorial Platform with its delightful views of a large meadow that slopes down into the surrounding spruce forest.
Following the platform, you'll enter a closed canopy spruce forest, past the Lynx Link and Moose Meander trails, and then back into alternating open canopy forest and meadows. This delivers you to the end of the Marie Church Trail where you started the loop.
You can increase the length of your trek by adding the Lynx Link and Moose Meander segments. There are plenty of options for multiple forays over many days. Your canine family members are welcome during the winter, except during the Family Fun Days, with respect for wildlife use and vegetation.
Wynn-ter Family Fun Days
From 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays, (Jan. 7 to March 25), the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies offers the free and fun-for-all-ages Wynn-ter Family Fun Days, featuring naturalist-led activities, followed by s'mores and hot dogs cooked over a fire.
New topics and activities are offered each week, and include fascinating and fun events such as: Exploring The Wynn Nature Center on Snowshoes (CACS offers Snowshoe rental for a $5/day). Learn about native plants as a food source, the connection of local land and waterscapes, Forest Bingo, tracking animals (and humans), art in nature, storytelling, fire-building, shelter construction, scavenger hunts and medicinal plant hikes.
Consult the CFACS events calendar at www.akcoastalstudies.org/events/calendar.html, or call/email or visit the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies at 235-6667 or email either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.