A Fat Old Lady Takes Up Climbing
My Seventh Year in the Mountains
Spring 2006

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Spring has been slow in coming. The mountains are still encased in snow. Sadly, there was a deadly avalanche on Flattop this winter, which was an eye-opener for me. Several times in the past, I have been on the same trail under that cornice. I've even wondered if the cornice would ever come down on the trail. Now I know. So I won't be up Flattop again until it is mostly clear of snow. The way it looks now, that could be several weeks away. In the meantime, I'll continue to go on nice walks with my dog is safer places. Click the links to see some of the pictures along the trails.

Cyclist on frozen Eklutna Lake
McHugh Peak looms
McHugh Creek, running freely again
View of Turnagain Arm from McHugh Creek Trail
Kinnikinnick Berries emerge from under the snowcover

mallard in reeds
mew-gull on a tree top
canada geese have returned
trumpeter swans, just passing through

The trail up Bird Ridge usually clears of snow first, because of the steep southern exposure and high winds in the area. When Saturday dawned calm and sunny, I wondered if the Bird Ridge Trail was ready for hiking. After driving the 25 miles to the trailhead, I discovered that many others had the same thought. The parking lot was full, and cars were lined up along the shoulder of the highway. The trail was relatively good until I reached the snowpack a little way above the "meadow", beyond the treeline. We turned back at that point. The "meadow" will be covered in flowers soon, but nothing is blooming yet (other than willows). That did not discourage the Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterflies. They hibernate in the adult form and start to fly, even with snow all around, if their body temperature reaches about 50ºF. I saw 5 or 6 of these amazingly hardy critters, and was able to photograph one. There were eagles soaring over the valley, circling. I heard ptarmigan too, but never saw them. The next day, there were snow flurries in Anchorage, but I'm not fooled by that; Spring is really here now.

bird ridge collage

More information on the Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Fearful of avalanches, I waited until most of the snow was off my favorite mountain. Although there were long stretches of trail that were snow covered, all the dangerous packs that sometimes cling below the summit were gone. It was a beautiful climb on a sunny day. From a distance, the mountain doesn't appear green or colorful yet, but a closer look revealed hundreds of tiny tundra flowers at the summit and all along the way, above the treeline. Part of the scramble below the summit was packed with snow, making that difficult section particularly frightening, but we made it safely up and down. The weather lately has been perfect, with temperatures in the high 60's or low 70's. Rain has come conveniently in time to damp down wildfires, and water our gardens. During times like this, I am convinced that Alaska is a paradise.

More photos from the Flattop climb:

Long view looking at the mountain, from along the trail
Another view from the cliff, showing a haze of smoke from a wildfire

More nature photos from May, Anchorage area

Mourning Cloak Butterfly along the Potter Creek Trail, early May
Two butterfly species pose together along the Potter Creek Trail
Kinnikinnik flowers at McHugh Creek Park, south Anchorage
Beautiful Jacob's Ladder, McHugh Creek Park
A very tiny plant, Northern Jasmine, Androsace septentrionalis
Flaming pink sky, sunset seen from my window
An Arctic Tern at Potter Marsh, south Anchorage
A four-spotted-skimmer, the first dragonfly of the season

Marsh Violet (Viola-epipsela) at Conner Bog, west Anchorage

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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