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

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Another drizzly day. Sun is supposed to be on the way, but I can't wait. So I drove out about 40 miles and hiked around several places in Hatcher Pass, including the footpath around Summit Lake. It rained lightly the whole time. Hiking in high country, I often hear Hoary Marmots, also known as "whistle pigs" for their long, high-pitched calls of alarm. Sometimes I'll see one scurry off in the distance. Today is the first time I was able to get close enough to take a photograph. There were also little Arctic Ground Squirrels all over the place. All the rodents looks rather damp today. Clicking on the small photos will produce a bigger one.

hatcher pass

More photos from Hatcher Pass and nearby:
Looking down on the road from Summit Lake
Alpine Spiraea, a ubiquitous flower in Alaska's alpine tundra
The Hoary Marmot voices a few choice words for me
Could this critter be any cuter? Arctic Ground Squirrel
Arctic Ground Squirrel, showing typical habitat
A webpage with additional photos and info on Arctic Ground Squirrels
A mountain scene on the road home, when the sun came out

Sunshine! And it's expected to continue for two more days! Must enjoy every second! Last summer, when I visited Byron Glacier, the snowfield had shrunken alarmingly, but this year it came back, at least enough to cross the valley again. There was a lot of snow in this area during the winter, and cold temperatures too, which apparently was enough to build up the snowfield. However, the glacier behind it is still retreating. We walked across the snow to the boulder field. Jascha had a great time romping in the snow. Click the photos for full-screen versions.

byron glacier

More photos from the Byron Glacier Trail and the Portage area:
The trail to Byron Glacier
Jascha rolling in the snow
Large panorama of the valley, seen from the snowfield
One of the many glacial lakes in the area 
Another glacier along Portage Road
A fireweed flower, in situ

The last time I climbed up the Crow Pass Trail, scary black clouds and wind rolled over the mountains just before the Pass, and I turned back. The weather was much more cooperative this time, with a light breeze and some clouds moving across the sky. I made it to the top of the Pass, past the cabin, through the second creek crossing, and finally stood before Raven Glacier. Someday it would be fun to go down the other side. Arctic Ground Squirrels tormented my dog most of the way, chirping at him, then vanishing down a hole. I enjoyed watching a little bird, an American Dipper, foraging for tidbits in a rushing stream high in the pass. It could walk under the water, clinging to rocks, while it gathered tasty morsels. There were flowers of all colors to brighten up the trail. It was a perfect summer day, in a beautiful location. Click on 'em, and see 'em bigger.

crow pass

More images from Crow Pass:
This is Raven Glacier, up in Crow Pass
View north, from the glacier
A small glacial lake in the Pass
A mountain rises over a glacial creek
Scene with falls, snow, and Alpine Spiraea
Visitors from California hiking down the Trail
The trail goes through a glacial valley
Salmonberry at the lower end of the trail
Two more pix of the American Dipper: view 2 & view 3
More flowers on the trail: Red-stemmed Saxifrage & 4-petalled Gentian

Twelve straight days of rain. One nice day was predicted, with rain returning the next. You can't miss an opportunity like that, so after work I ran home and asked Jascha if he wanted to climb Flattop. He said yes. He always does. Every trail in the area was full of happy people Monday night, and Flattop was no exception. We were rewarded with views of Mt. McKinley 100 miles to the north. A surprising number and variety of flowers were still out, and now berries are everywhere, too. The bearberry leaves are turning red, suggesting just a hint of autumn. Rain returned the next day, as predicted, but that couldn't diminish the memory of a beautiful evening on Flattop Mountain.

More Pix from Flattop:
Sitka Burnet along the trail, overlooking the inlet
Black Bearberries, resplendent in Autumn foliage
Fireweed adorns the trail, overlooking the valley
A variety of flowers, just below the scramble
View of the city, from the edge

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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