A Fat Old Lady Takes Up Climbing
The Continuing Adventures
Summer 2007

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August started out rainy and gloomy, but the sky brightened today. It was perfect for a late afternoon romp up the best mountain in the city. There were late summer flowers along the way, and the berries of autumn are starting to ripen. The blueberries were delicious, but the crowberry that I tried wasn't ripe yet. Near the trailhead, there are trailing raspberries, a small ground-cover plant. I only saw one ripened berry, so I left it alone. I hope there will be some to try next month. [Trailing Raspberry flowers -- and berry] Click on the small collage pix to see larger versions, and check out the additional images below.

More Flattop photos:
Another fireweed scene along the trail
Berry pickers on Blueberry Hill, below the mountain
View of the trail under blue skies
Closeup of Sitka Burnet, Sanguisorba stipulata
I think this is Red Burnet, Sanguisorba officinalis

Two views of a beaver (Castor canadensis),
busily building a lodge in Taku Lake, 8/8/07:
Image one / Image two

The last time I walked on Matanuska Glacier was about 30 years ago. I kept meaning to go back there, but you know how the years just slip away... . On a whim, Thursday evening I drove the 100 miles out the Glenn Highway and camped at the Matanuska Glacier Rest Area there. The next day, Jascha and I hiked a little mile-long loop at the rest stop, then drove a couple more miles to the Matanuska Glacier Park. Access to the glacier itself is available from a trail there. It's fairly easy to walk on the glacier at first, because where it meets the land, it is full of gravel and rocks, providing good traction. Since I had planned to hike onto the solid ice further up, I brought along my mountaineering crampons, and they were very useful. Where others had to turn back, I could walk with ease. Hiking on cold blue ice under a bright sun is a remarkable experience. I will not wait another thirty years. View the glacier scenes full-screen by clicking on the small photos and on the links below.

More scenes from the glacier:

A blue scene of sky and ice
Another scene of clouds and ice
An ice cave not far from the glacier's toe
A small crevasse shines with eerie blue light
A group explores the expanse of ice and rubble

It's been rain and more rain, for the past week or so. Noting an improving weather report further to the north, I drove up the Parks Hwy to Denali State Park late Saturday. Toward evening, Mt. McKinley, made an appearance, although heavily shrouded in clouds and fog. I hoped for clearing the next day, but it wasn't in the cards. The largest mountain in North America was completely absent from the scene, lost in clouds. However, it wasn't raining (much), so Jascha and I had a nice hike up Little Coal Creek Trail. Although Denali herself was missing from the scene, and the rest of the Alaska Range was hazy, the views were still beautiful. So this hike was all about the berry bounty. Not far from the trailhead, I nibbled on some sweet but bland watermelon berries. The bunchberries were abundant, but still not quite ripe. Ah, but the blueberries, blanketing the tundra further up, were exceptional in size, texture and flavor. There was just a hint of autumn color throughout the area. The small photos have links, and you'll find more photo links underneath the collage.

More scene from Denali State Park:

Watermelon Berries hang like ornaments
Bunchberries line a cliff

Another view from the trail
Green Mountain Ash shrub, with autumn colors

Scenes from the previous evening:
Hazy mountains rise over a river valley
Mount McKinley, barely visible through the clouds
The sun dips behind The High One from another point along the highway.
"When fireweed goes to cotton, summer is soon forgotten"

A friend told me about a hidden trail out to the end of Bird Point, from the rest area about 25 miles south of Anchorage, and on this beautiful sunny day I went looking for it. It's really just a footpath that start at a break in the fencing, goes down a steep embankment, across the railroad tracks, then out the little "spit" of rocks and seaweed. At first the pathway goes through a wooded area with flowers and berries, but it quickly disappears, and hikers simply pick their way over boulders and through tide pools out at far as possible. Parts of it are underwater at high tide, but I happened to be there at low tide. It could be dangerous to go out and then find the way back is full of water, so I kept a wary eye on the water level. There were a surprising number of dragonflies along the way, but they were in constant motion, difficult to photograph. Finally I found one basking on a rock. Check the all the thumbnail and text links for full-screen photos.

More pix from the Point:

Paddletail Darners are large, attractive dragonflies that are common in the area
Little red squirrels inhabit most of the wooded areas in southcentral Alaska
Kinnikinnick berries are colorful and edible, but dry and tasteless

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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Butterflies Along Alaska's Hiking Trails
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