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A Fat Old lady Takes Up Climbing
The Year Six Journal
July 2005


On to August

Mt. Baldy, out in Eagle River, about 10 miles from Anchorage, is a popular place to climb. It's a fairly short, but steep ascent, which gives hikers a good workout. After scaling the west side, a beautiful broad ridge stretches out for a couple more miles to the east. It's like a reward for having worked so hard to get there. So Jascha and I went down to the meadow-like ridge and walked for awhile. He was delighted to watch several arctic ground squirrels (who were not at all glad to see him). I was looking for flowers and butterflies. As we moseyed along the ridge, I noticed that the clouds were building up and darkening. Thunder storms used to be very rare in this area, but the recent warming of the ocean water has changed weather patterns here. For the past few summers, electric storms have become increasingly common. So we didn't finish the ridge, but walked back up over the summit and down the west side to the parking area. Rolling thunder accompanied the descent. The rain politely held off until we were inside the van. Click the upper right photo to see a full screen version of the view over the west side of Mt. Baldy
Mt. Baldy collage

Click the photos above, or the links below, to see larger versions:
View of Eagle River, seen from east side of Baldy during the hasty descent
Three Arctic Ground Squirrels watch us and scold from a distant rock.
Tiny lowbush cranberries nestle in the rocks at the summit.

Additional Photos and related links:
View of the Mt. Magnificent Ridge, south of Baldy's ridge, showing gathering clouds
Click for more photos and info on Arctic Ground Squirrels
More info on the Old World Swallowtail Butterfly
More info on the Northern Blue Butterfly

On Friday, Anchorage was covered by a thick cloud of smoke from a forest fire on the Kenai Peninsula. My eyes and throat were stinging and I was having trouble breathing. So I decided to get outta' town. The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is not far from Valdez, where my daughter lives, but in all the times I've driven past, I never took that left turn to see the Park. So this time I went exploring. It's a wilderness park, with gravel roads and few amenities. That night I camped inside the park, and Saturday I found the Crystalline Hills Trail. It's a little footpath that goes uphill through thick forest, past a dry waterfall of polished marble, alongside rock walls that look like ice. The forest floor was strewn with flowers. It was a very nice easy hike. The weather was cool, overcast, with intermittent sprinkles. By the time I got home on Sunday, the winds had shifted, and the air was clear.

Crystalline Hills

Click any of the photos above, or these links, to see larger versions:
A shining rock wall
Scene from the trail, across the valley
The "marble falls", looking up from the dry stream bed
Interesting mushrooms found along the trail
Teesy, tiny twinflowers, Linaea borealis, with 1/4" blossoms
Bog-star, Parnassia palustris, flower closeup
Here's another view of the Bog-star Flower, showing the whole plant.

More photos from inside the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Picturesque old railroad trestle from the Park's rich mining history
Liberty Falls, not far from the Park entrance
Pond scene, with flowers and sprinkles

Additional photos from the trip, along the Glen Highway
Matanuska Glacier
River Beauty, Epilobium latifolium, a type of dwarf fireweed
An unually light colored Delphinium, found near the Glacier
Large panorama of mountains on the north side of the Glen Highway
Large panorama of mountains on the south side of the Glen Highway

There have been clouds and rain for days now. A bit of sun was predicted for today, but it was as cloudy as previous days. It wasn't actually raining, however, so we climbed up Flattop in the fog. The trail was muddy from earlier rain, and vegetation was drenched. The trail wasn't too bad though, and there were a few other people up there, enjoying the --um, well-- lack of view. I guess you could say the view was at our feet, as flowers were everywhere. The lower left photo includes Sitka Burnet, Yellow Paintbrush, and monkshood. Click on it for a larger version. All the collage pix are "clickable".

foggy flattop

Additional Photos:

Foggy trail scene, with fireweed
Burnet along the trail, in the mist

All photographs are the property of the photographer, Mary Hopson.
If you wish to use them in screensavers or webpages, please leave copyright information intact.

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Enjoy the Flowers Along Alaska's Hiking Trails

Butterflies Along Alaska's Hiking Trails
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