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

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With the new month, there's been a change in the weather, and it looks like it's here to stay for awhile-- heavy overcast with intermittent drizzle. I was hoping conditions might be better further north, so I took a trip up the Parks Highway. The clouds followed us. Friends had told me that there were beautiful views of Mt. McKinley from Byers Lake, but, of course, that was not the case today. Nevertheless, the 5-mile hike around the lake is a pleasant stroll through a forest, with nice glimpses of the lake interspersed. There was an assortment of birds and flowers along the way. My dog found the swaying foot bridge to be a bit disconcerting, but he bravely crossed it anyway. All the small photos below have larger versions online if you click on them; there are additional links below the collage.

More scenes from Byer Lake:

Another view of Byers Lake
An old trapper's cabin, near the lakeshore
Distant view of a family of swans on the Lake
These tiny flowers are always among my favorites-- Twinflower
"Old Man's Beard" is really a lichen that grows on spruce trees in the area

More photos from early July:

Dramatic evening sky, seen from Potter Creek, where it empties in Turnagain Arm
Turnagain Arm sunset, the same evening

After another gray day, clouds seemed to part over the mountains, making them very enticing. Although there were gusty winds along the way, sometimes slowing progress, the mountain remained bathed in sunshine. Looking down toward the Anchorage "Bowl", we could see an ominous cloud covering the entire area. Upon cresting the summit edge, hikers immediate encountered powerful steady wind, perhaps 45-50 mph. Everyone huddled behind rocky windbreaks for respite before retreating back down the trail. Shortly after we returned to the trailhead, there was a beautiful sunset. Click any of the little pix, and the links below, for full screen images.

More photos from Flattop:

An evening view of the mountain with the hemlock forest near the trailhead
Alpine scene with Mountain Avens in situ
Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) close up

More photos from mid-July:
A pair of damselflies in a mating "wheel", by Goose Lake
A family of Lesser Canada Geese, in Goose Lake
Marsh Cinquefoil, at the edge of Goose Lake

With a couple nice days predicted, I drove down to the Kenai Peninsula on the 16th, to the Skilak Lake area. That evening, Jascha and I hiked a trail down to the lakeshore. We saw a tree that had been scratched about 6 feet up, with cinnamon colored bear fur still attached. Jascha was very interested in the tree, but not alarmed, so I felt assured that the bear was long gone. After the walk to the lakeshore, we found a nice campground nearby and walked around that area too, enjoying a perfect summer evening. The next day was sunny and warm. In fact, it seemed downright hot. But as we climbed the Hideout Trail overlooking the valley and lake, we found shade along the way, and we were both carrying enough water, so we made it to the top of the trail just fine. Later, back at home, it was reported on the news that the hot spot in Alaska that day was Skilak Lake, at 82ºF!

 More photos from the Kenai Peninsula trip:

Scene with fireweed, from along the Hideout Trail
Scene with harebells, from along the Hideout Trail
Mountains reflected in Alder Lake, in Portage Valley
Closeup of a honeybee, nectaring on a pushki flower

Wow, what a great hike! It was a beautiful day in Hatcher Pass, and there's never a shortage of mountains to climb there. We haven't been up the Fishhook Trail before, so we packed plenty of water and scrambled on up. The views are always great there, because the entire hike is in alpine tundra, with no trees to block the scene. There was an abundance of flowers, a couple species of butterflies, and the everpresent arctic ground squirrels along the way. We watched paragliders flying off nearby ledges, floating into the valley below us. We stayed up on the ridge for a long time, reluctant to leave such a perfect place. There was quite a bit of overcast, but no rain until we were nearly back to the trailhead. As we drove the 50 miles back to Anchorage, it rained a bit. The next day there was a steady downpour.

More photos from the Fishhook Trail:

A paraglider floats through the valley
A tall flower rises over the scene
Mastodon flowers provide bright color
A deadly poisonous monkshood, closeup
A small, common tundra flower-- alpine spiraea

The Falls Creek Trail 20 miles down the Seward Highway is, by turns, overgrown with pushki and devil's club, rocky, dusty, muddy, steep, and confusing. In fact, I've tried twice before to find the way to the headwater lake at the end of the trail, and failed both times. This time I managed to find it, although I was completely off the trail, just following the creek, for quite awhile. I felt sure the creek would lead me to the lake, even though the footpaths were unreliable. It was wonderful up by the tarn, surrounded by alpine tundra and rocky peaks. The biting black flies that plagued us along much of the trail were absent at the higher elevation. Jascha enjoyed his romp in the cold water. We sat up there enjoying the view and eating a nice snack until some clouds gathered over the mountain range and thunder began to rumble. Then we left the beauty of the tundra and plunged back into the dense vegetation. It was a treat to see the Yellow Willow-herb flowers (Epilobium luteum) in a very wet subalpine meadow; I'd never seen any before, and there was a great profusion of them there.

More scenes from along the Falls Creek Trail:

View of flowers along the creek a mile or so from the trailhead
Yellow Monkeyflowers growing in abundance along the creek
Closeup of the Yellow Monkdyflowers, Minulus guttatus
More flowers beside the creek at a higher elevation, with a rocky peak looming
And still more flowers at the upper elevations along the creek
Jascha enjoying a nice soak in a cold lake, after a long hot climb
Heading back down the trail through alpine tundra
See the creek as it heads down the valley toward Turnagain Arm
View of the inlet, with gathering clouds

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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