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 Still Fat, Still Old, Still Climbing
Alaskan Adventures Continue
back to August 2003- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -M September 2003- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - on to October 2003

Late in the evening on the 6th, I packed up the van and drove about 100 miles out the Glen Highway to an incredibly beautiful area of mountains and glaciers. The plan was to climb Strelshla Mountain the next morning. I'm pretty sure I found the right mountain, however, as happens far too often, I couldn't find the trailhead. So we went back to a trailhead that I had passed earlier, at Puritan Creek, and hiked there instead. The trail rose steeply right away, but then it leveled off and never got us above the treeline. It was still a very nice hike because the subalpine vegetation allowed great visibility of the Talkeetna Mountains to the north (as in the top photo, below) and the Chugach range on the other side of a deep valley (lower left photo.) I was pleasantly surprised to see the mourning cloak butterfly basking on the tundra blueberry plants. Temperatures were chilly, but the butterfly's dark hues allowed it to warm up enough to take flight.

Puritan Creek Trail

This hike allowed me to try out a new camera, a Minolta Dimage7Hi. See some of the photos in large format:
Large closeup view of the mourning cloak butterfly with its wings open--click small photo above, or here
Click here for a large closeup view of the mourning cloak butterfly with its wings closed
View of Wickersham Peak from the Glen Highway in Alaska
Long Lake and King Mountain from the Glen Highway
Matanuska River flows between the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountain ranges.
You are welcome to use any photographs from this site, but please leave the copyright information intact.

The sun was shining brightly up on the Portage Pass Trail, along with a bitter wind. Temperatures were in the mid-50s, a striking contrast with the record breaking heat that accompanied us on this trail last year (in July). The summer flowers are all gone, and fall colors are not as much in evidence there as they are closer to Anchorage, or along the Glen Highway. However, there were bright berries everywhere, and just a suggestion of autumn in the tundra foliage. This is a short trail that gets you up into the alpine wonderland rather quickly, and the scenery is gorgeous, with glaciers, mountains, and tarns in every direction. (In the collage below, all the lower photos have large image links.)

Portage Pass Trail

Portage Glacier, seen from the Pass
A small tarn at the top of the Pass
Bard Peak and Shakespheare Glacier, seen from the Pass
Passage Canal, seen from the lower end of the trail
Closeup of tundra blueberries
Dogwood bunchberries, closeup
After the hike, see the Whittier Harbor, with Maynard Mountain in the background
You may use any photographs from this site, but please leave the copyright information intact.

Thompson Pass, near the southern end of the Richardson Highway, is a windswept area of alpine tundra and stark beauty. I drive through it everytime I visit my daughter in Valdez. This Saturday, I stopped and took a nice long walk with my dog along one of the many trails. Vistas of mountain peaks, deep valleys, and glaciers will take your breath away. Well, that and the biting winds. There are no trees or even larger brushy plants on the rocky landscape, but there are abundand lichens, mosses, and small berry plants. I believe the berries are mountain cranberries, Vaccinium vitis-idaea. The entire area was dotted with patches of fresh snow.
Thompson Pass collage

 All four of the collage photos (above) have full screen versions if you click on them.
Here are some additional photos taken the same day, along the Richardson Highway:
Beautiful Mount Drum, with the Copper River in the foreground.
And Mount Drum reflected in a still lake.
Worthington Glacier, near Valdez
Valdez small boat harbor, with mountains in the background
You may use any photographs from this site, but please leave the copyright information intact.

This is the rule: I must climb Flattop once a month, May to October. But, see, I kind of lost track of time, what with my job and the rest of my life and all. Then the weather turned lousy, pouring down rain. But today, there was a little break in the rain after work, and I headed up to my favorite mountain. Sure, the wind was pretty bad, but we started the trek anyway. After we got past the first saddle, I started to feel invincible. I was leaning into the wind, closing in on the second saddle, feeling like I was flying, with a steady wind of about 45mph holding me up. That's when a particularly strong gust blasted my 100lb. dog backwards, into my legs. He leaned against me and made it clear that he thought this hike was folly. The mountain didn't defeat us, but the wind did. I later learned that there were gusts to 85mph at the trailhead, probably higher up where we were. (The photo on the left has a full screen link.)
windy flattop 9/03

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On to October 2003

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Or two years ago, 2001

Back to where it all began in 2000
Enjoy the Flowers Along Alaska's Hiking Trails

Butterflies Along Alaska's Hiking Trails
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