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A Fat Old lady Takes Up Climbing
|Once in awhile, we Alaskans get a hankering to see the midnight sun, even though it is light enough to see just fine all night long here in Anchorage. You don't actually have to cross the Arctic Circle to reach places where the sun doesn't set, but you have to head in that direction. So the dog and I headed out June 19th, driving the few roads that cross Alaskan wilderness. First, we went to Valdez to visit my daughter. That takes us east and south on the Glen Highway and the Richardson. Next, we set out to drive the Richardson north to Fairbanks, taking a brief detour west from Paxon to see some of the scenic Denali Highway. From Fairbanks, we drove up the (mostly gravel) Steese Highway to Eagle Summit where the sun stays up for about a week around summer solstice. Because of wildfires in the area, the sky was darkened with smoke. The sun didn't set, be we couldn't see it. The journey provided many other lovely scenes however. I'll post a few pix now, and provide more info on the trip soon. Click on any of the pictures for a full screen version.|
Eagle Summit during Summer Solstice. The sun
was shining on the other side of dense clouds. The dark specks throughout
the picture are little biting flies, as dense as the smoke.
More scenic views from the Solstice trip:
A view of the famous oil pipeline that crosses Alaska
|Although I had planned to climb Pinnell Mountain, by Eagle Summit, during the summer solstice, the oppressive heat and smoke from nearby forest fires made that impossible. After a few days on the road, the weather improved, and we got far enough away from the fires to make a nice long hike possible. The Little Coal Creek Trail is on the Parks Highway, in Denali State Park, southeast of the National Park. It has a good elevation gain allowing hikers to get up above the treeline for the beautiful views fairly quickly. There were stunning scenes in every direction, but the most riveting sight was Mt. McKinley rising above the clouds, about 50 miles away. In the collage below, "Denali" is on the far left of the panorama with Jascha and me, barely visible above the clouds. Later in the day, the mountain completely disappeared.|
Zoom view of Mt. McKinley, from the Little Coal Creek Trail,
|Two days later, we were nearing home, but detoured into the Hatcher Pass
area to hike the Reed Lakes Trail. The views were simply stunning all along
the way, surrounded as we were by soaring granite rock walls, bubbling streams,
bolders, and wildflowers. There was a picturesque ruin of a miners' bunkhouse
about a mile and a half in. The first lake is another miles and a half,
after some boulder scrambling and significant elevation gain of about 1300'.
We continued on up to a lovely falls and played around a bit in the frigid
water of the upper stream, but did not go on to the second lake. The roundtrip
was a tiring, but rewarding, seven miles.|
Click for a full screen version of the lower right photograph, looking down on the first lake from the falls.
|June just flew by. On the last day, I looked east, to the mountains, and they were gone! But up we went anyway. No matter where we were on the Flattop trail, the scene remained the same-- nothing but gray. It wasn't raining, but the 100% humidity covered everything with droplets, (and curled my hair). From the summit, there was no view in any direction, no reason to dawdle, so we were up and down in just a bit over two hours. Each hike up Flattop is different from all the others. It's a magical place, even when you can't see anything.|
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