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Back to October 2004

A Fat Old lady Takes Up Climbing
The Year Six Journal
Winter 2005


Spring 2005

Jan 9
My dog, Jascha (YAH-shuh), is very handsome, but not the smartest or best behaved canine in the world. He doesn't do tricks. He's inclined to run off, chase squirrels, ignore commands... that sort of thing. As a result, even when we are far away from the city, on some rural trail, he cannot run loose. In order to keep my hands free for photography, I attach Jascha's 16' 110 lb Flexi leash to a skijoring belt. We've been hiking together like that ever since I got him from the city pound four years ago. On Sunday, 1/9/05, the system worked perfectly, which is why I'm all in one piece, just a bit bruised.

We've had some cold weather of late, but very little snow. I thought the Bodenburg Butte's new trail might be climbable during the winter. Yes, it might be, but I made a couple of bad decisions that left me in danger. First, I strapped YakTrax onto my boots instead of my mountaineering crampons. That was fine for the first mile of the hike, which rolls pleasantly around the hill, from the northside access to the west, where the steep ascent begins. Above the long stairway (designed to protect vegetation), a narrow pathway of thick, solid ice awaited me. This was blunder number two: I decided to go on up. It was a tremendous struggle, and I frequently slipped and fell. With the sun shining, I knew there would be lovely views from the summit, so I persevered through several switchbacks.

Then I lost my footing completely. In an uncontrolled slide, flailing futilely for some sort of handhold, I looked down and saw that I was heading for a 20' cliff. A fall of that sort is unlikely to kill me, but could certainly break some bones. In the cold weather, it would be difficult hiking back to my van for help. My only hope was my dog, and the rapidly lengthening Flexi leash that linked us. Jascha was staring at me with a look of great concern. Assessing the situation, he quickly crouched down, spread his paws, and dug his claws into his icy perch. I hit the end of the leash with a jolt, but Jascha closed his eyes and held on with all his might. My screams changed to "GOOD DOG!"

On all our hikes, Jascha repeatedly tries to chase rabbits or squirrels. He seems surprised each time he comes to the end of the leash and is abruptly halted. But somehow, when I needed him, he instinctively knew what to do with that leash. He has earned his kibble for the rest of his life. And every time he wears out a Flexi leash, I'll happily buy him another.

butte-boots & dog

Obviously, there are no spectacular photos from the summit of the Bodenburg Butte.
Here are a couple views from along the trail: View One and View Two
Matanuska River scene, taken the same day, in the area
Jascha, my MacKenzie River Husky, large view of the photo above

Some Scenes from Beluga Point
Jan 16, 2005

There's no trail at Beluga Point, just a couple rocky outcrops right at the edge of Turnagain Arm. It's a popular spot to park and hike around. Sometimes beluga whales are visible from shore, but not today. Ice was rushing past on a current or tide, and it drew a crowd. It was a very cold day, around zero, with a bone-chilling breeze. High winds are common in this area, clearing most surfaces of snow. (My dog didn't have to save me even once today.)

A couple watches the moving ice
Another pair photographs the scene
Orange lichens cling to the rocky shore
A burled tree in a small woods next to the sea
This is what happens to trees in windy locations
Kenai Mountains as viewed across Turnagain Arm
Ice climber scales the cliff on the other side of the road nearby
Video clip of couple watching moving ice, in 3 formats, created in QuickTime
moving_ice.MOV 3070797moving_ice.AVI 3070797moving_ice.MP4
(If you don't have it, get your QuickTime Plugin here, for Windows or Macs)

Having learned my lesson last month, I strapped on mountaineering crampons for this attempt at the Butte. As you can see, we made it! Conditions were the same, cold and snowless. Even with spikes on my boots, I would slide on ice unless I stomped heavily with each step. It was exhausting but exhilarating. Many surfaces were covered with hoarfrost in the zero degree temperatures, and were sparkling in the sun. As usual, hiking down was more difficult than up, so I took a couple tumbles. The three photos in the collage have large versions with links below, along with some other pix taken along the way.
butte collage

Click these links for photos:
Larger version of the summit photo, with more of the surrounding view
Shadows view the river from the summit
Overlooking the town of Butte, with Knik Glacier in the distance
Overlooking some farms, with Pioneer Peak in the distance
Hoarfrost covers plants along the way


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Enjoy the Flowers Along Alaska's Hiking Trails

Butterflies Along Alaska's Hiking Trails
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