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

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Most of June was cloudy, windy and wet, but July is off to a good start. It rained most of the way yesterday (June 30) while I was driving to Valdez to visit my daughter, but today the sun showed up bright and early. On this beautiful day, we're back in Wrangell-St.Elias for a nice little hike on the Liberty Falls Trail. It's an easy trail, about 2.5 miles, with no significant elevation gain. Oddly enough, there are no views of the falls from the trail, but you can hear it for the first half of the trail. (There's a view of the Liberty Falls at a nearby pull-off.) Starting in a lovely forest, the trail soon moves on to a rocky ridge overlooking a deep valley. The ridge abruptly ends at a cliff with a wonderful view of a river and lake stretching out below. Click on the collage photos to see full-sized versions.

Click here to see Liberty Falls

More photo from recent days:
Matanuska Glacier, along the Glenn Highway
A Willow Ptarmigan, hiding in a tree, in Anchorage
Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis, along an Anchorage trail
4th of July Fireworks in a midtown park: Fireworks1 / Fireworks2

Unsettled weather has returned, and kept me on short hikes, mostly in town. On this drizzly day, I drove out to Hatcher Pass to see if conditions were better there. On the steep road up to the park, I drove into a very thick "pea soup", so I went back down to a trailhead just below the fog. It's called Gold Mint Trail, and since I had never hiked it, I didn't know anything about it. My dog and I set out without packs, just exploring, not intending to go very far. There was a light rain, and as you can see in the first photograph, a low cloud cover. But the trail was easy and pleasant. Apparently there is a steep section later on, but on the 2 or 3 miles that we hiked in, there was nothing strenuous. I got a bit damp, Jascha got very muddy, and a good time was had by all. All the photos have links to larger versions, however, I don't have the identification for the first yellow flower. Email me if you know what it is.

A White-crowned Sparrow, in an Anchorage park, posed nicely for me on July 9.
She got closer and closer as I snapped away. See six views of her here:
View 1 / View 2 / View 3 / View 4 / View 5 / View 6

Gray skies and mountain storms have defined most of this summer. There was one nice day in mid-July, and I planned to hike up the Falls Creek Trail that day. Unfortunately, the trail isn't well marked, so a couple hours later, after a hefty elevation gain, I had to admit that I was totally lost. I'll try again someday.

Photos from mid-July
Falls Creek, at the trailhead
Flowers cling to a rock wall by another waterfall
View from Beluga Point along the Seward Hwy
A couple takes in the view from atop a rock
A Dall Sheep Ewe came down near the road
Then she approached even closer, in spite of the crowd that formed
Her spring lamb was more skittish, staying up in a ravine in the mountains
Two shots of a damselfly that I can't identify: View 1/View 2
Three honey bees, photographed in Anchorage: Bee 1/ Bee2/ Bee3

The weather deteriorated as the month progressed. By the 24th, I was fed up. Hearing of sunshine in Fairbanks, I headed north, thinking it might be nice by the time I got to the Denali State Park, where I had a couple hikes planned. It was pouring rain there. So I drove further north to Denali National Park, where the rain had stopped, but the heavy overcast continued. Although I wasn't able to do a nice long hike anywhere, I got some nice photos along the way.

Photos from the trip north
Clouds hang over a lake somewhere between Willow and Trapper Creek
A foggy scene in Denali State Park
I was delighted to see this caribou buck in Denali National Park
Same guy, different pose
Long view of the scene, with caribou eating river beauty flowers
Close up of River Beauty (Dwarf Fireweed)
Norwegian Cinquefoil, a common circumpolar species
A strange lichen in Denali State Park--Old Man's Beard
Maroon Burnet and Tall Fireweed grow along Honolulu Creek
Red-necked Grebe mother and baby

Finally! The sun! Clearly visible! I waited until evening to hike up Flattop, knowing that the sun would set around 10:50PM. I was on my way back down when I took the sunset photo (lower left), but it was still plenty light enough to find the way back to the trailhead. All the recent rain had created a marvelous garden of wildflowers all along the way. I found the Golden-crowned Sparrow (middle row, left) among some of the last trees before the alpine tundra. There was a huge crowd on the trail, even up at the summit, and everyone was smiling. All the collage pix have larger versions if you click on them.

More photo links

A Flattop summit scene with Alaska Spiraea
Four views of the Golden-crowned Sparrow on Flattop:
View 1 / View 2 / View 3 / View 4

Flowers in a subalpine meadow beneath Flattop Mountain:
Star Gentian, Swertia perennis
Mastodon Flower, Senecia congestus
Coastal Fleabane in a wildflower bouquet
Larkspur, False Hellebore, & Monkshood below Flattop

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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