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mountains 2005 ~ Alaska blog archives ~ Nature & Literature Blog

mountains 2006

Cloud walking at Hatch Peak (July 5, 2006) (2006-07-05 21:37:35)

Cloud walking, exercise or art? In this case probably safer than cloud driving or cloud flying... We drove to the summit of Hatcher Pass then hiked to Hatch Peak and as you can see from these photos the clouds continued to scuttle around us. Eddies of both warm and cool air swirled along the ridge tops and we could see both cumulus nimbus (the infamous thunderheads) brewing above the other ridges and what I would call "high fog" below us but the weather forecasters labeled as "chance of rain." [Hatch Peak view, smoky day, 8/11/2005]

Gold Cord Lake (7/9/2006) (2006-07-09 23:55:18)

Gold Cord Lake is a popular and, except for a short steep climb, easy-to-access destination in the Independence Bowl (Talkeetna Mountains). It was (and usually is) a crowded destination (map).

Gold Cord Lake trail--up the headwall. Not exactly Mt Fuji, but hikers remind me of a sprinkling of confetti.

Gold Cord Lake. I liked this view but what you don't see are all the people... to my left and to my right.

Headed back down to the parking lot, storm clouds piled high above the ridges. The grooved foot trail records the history of years of feet walking. Independence Mine park buildings and parking lot across bowl. ($5.00 to park unless you have an Alaska State Parks annual pass.)

black ice, blue ice, glacier ice (July 10, 2006) (2006-07-11 09:32:12)

Travel to the source of the Matanuska River from Palmer takes a car, some patience (to get through the road construction), and money. To walk out to the glacier you'll pay $10 per student and $15 per adult; to view the glacier from afar at the state parks' overlook is free.

The Matanuska Glacier is a lesson in ice, black ice, blue ice, clear dense ice, ice covered with rocks, ice with little bubbles, rapidly melting ice, deeply crevassed ice, rippled shiny melting ice, clean ice, dirty ice, fissured ice, slippery ice, wish I had crampons ice, booming talking ice... We parked in the designated parking area that looked like the edge of a gray, silty gravel pit and walked down a silty, windblown trail past a colony of hot pink hedysarum that grow happily in the newest glacial morraine and climbed gradually upwards onto what seemed to be a flat rocky plateau but turned out to be dense black ice coated with a layer of geometric rocks. We followed the concessionaire's 'trail' of orange cones, crossing narrow streams that cleft the ice in a bee line for the ocean, until we reached the end of the 'trail' where, to continue, took much patience and, preferably, crampons. Our patience (sans crampons) ran out soon and we watched jealously as a line of tourists with hard hats and rent-a-crampons marched straight up and down over the slippery, melting ice mounds to a better view of the glacier's face.

black ice

blue ice

melting, sun-pitted ice

the face of the glacier

Hedysarum, a colonizing plant (short, stunted willows were the other colonizer)

climbing anything but Lazy (7/11/06) (2006-07-12 00:27:12)

Lazy Mountain is an "anything but Lazy" climb. Ten minutes from "the first picnic table" I met three exhausted people who seemed to be contemplating turning back. They assured me it might as well be called "whiner mountain." The lower part of the "Lazy" climb goes through several different plant communities including a grasslands of 6+ foot tall grass, fireweed, and cow parsnip with slightly shorter stinging nettles dangling over the trail. You climb through bits of forest--cottonwood on the lower slopes, birch higher up. Then sections of brushy alder opens up into a steep slope of wildflowers, mostly fireweed (which isn't blooming yet) and wild geranium (which is blooming). If you decide to climb Lazy, bring plenty of water, and expect a steep, strenuous trail. And, after climbing Lazy, you get bragging rights.

Matanuska Peak (also sometimes called "Byers" but that's another story) -- view from the first picnic table, about 1500 vertical feet (elevation gain) up "Lazy" (and there's still another 1500 feet or so vertical feet to reach the summit of Lazy).

Looking back down the direction you climbed up Lazy. The Matanuska River and Palmer in the distance.

Looking up from "the first picnic table." Another steep climb and by no means is that peak anywhere near the summit...

And some days the thing to do is just turn around at the first picnic table and head back down... This isn't even one of the steepest sections of trail.

Pinnacle Lake (7/16/06) (2006-07-16 20:10:05)

Hiking to Pinnacle Lake is not exactly for the faint of heart. We parked at Independence Mine and started towards Gold Cord Lake but then climbed the headwall to the left. Except for about a hundred yards of visible foot steps stomped into the hill, there is no trail. Michael guided us over multiple steep boulder fields, up a series of headwalls. Even with a map there would be some trial and error involved in finding the best route to the lake. We climbed up through a light rain, into the clouds, crossing gurgling streams that flowed beneath the boulders. This was a mental as well as physical hike since the boulders were often treacherously slippery with moss and lichens, and a thin coating of mist. Some boulders waggled unervingly as I stepped onto them. The Pinnacle, a narrow rocky peak towering at about 5500 feet, appeared briefly through a hole in the clouds before a wind-blown mist settled onto the rocky landscape. Elevation gain: 1300 feet (parked at 3500 ft, Pinnacle Lake at about 4800 ft), and a much tougher hike than Hatch Peak.

Three views standing by Pinnacle Lake:

Hatch Peak Rim hike (July 22, 2006) (2006-07-23 00:11:52)

Looking south from Hatch Peak Rim towards Matanuska Valley. Knik and Matanuska Rivers and Pioneer Peak in distance.

Rugged Talkeetna Mountains and lakes north of Hatch Peak.

Summit lake, a turquoise jewel in a sea of green, visible on the descent from Hatch Peak.

Some wildflowers encountered in Hatch Peak area, July 22, 2006.

Saxifrage, Saxifraga bronchialis (Hatch Peak area.)

Close-up of saxifrage.

Pixie Eye primrose, Primula cuneifolia (Hatch Peak Area)

Spring Beauty, Claytonia sarmentosa (Hatch Peak Area)

Climbing Lazy (7/23/06) (2006-07-25 10:05:48)

Feeling strong? If you aren't a mountain runner who thrives on long, steep climbs and bone-jarring descents, try climbing Lazy, maybe. Lots of people do. I climbed it on a Sunday afternoon and was amazed by how many people were struggling either up or down. Yes down, too. Up is where you can't catch your breath, every muscle aches, and your heart is pounding. Down is when the true pain sets in and knee pain is the king of the pain. I envy the people who can run down these slopes--and you know they're decent slopes when you cover about three thousand vertical feet in a distance of 2.5 miles. I know it's a Sunday afternoon when I'm passing people, both going up and going down. And I travel this trail slowly in both directions. I'd barely started up when I passed a family with young children who were disingeniously telling their kids "we're almost there" and I knew I was a tough 40 minutes from the so-called "first picnic table" and first alpine views and another 40 minutes or so from the summit. And the casual hiker remembers climbing Lazy for several days afterwards, any stairway requiring careful, stiff-legged negotiation to avoid re-living the pain of Lazy.

Trail to the summit. You've already climbed about 2500 vertical feet by the time you get here.

Trail at the summit. Not for the faint of heart.

View of Matanuska (aka "Byers") Peak and ridgeline, looking east from near the Lazy Mountain summit.

Headed down... change of weather... before the knee pain sets in...
Matanuska River in foreground. Cook Inlet's "Knik Arm" in distance. Also visible near the river is the historic farm area along the "Springer system" (the Outer Springer Loop Rd and Inner Springer Loop Rd) and the Palmer Golf Course.

Mt McKinley (July 27, 2006) (2006-08-09 02:44:15)

Mt McKinley (Denali) viewed from pull-off just outside of Talkeetna through holes in the clouds.

Summit Lake just west of Hatcher Pass.

Archangel Valley, Talkeetna Mountains (7/28/06) (2006-08-09 02:49:42)

Archangel Valley, near end of bad road. This year the broken up culverts were replaced so the road to the Reed Lakes parking area is marginally better. However, to drive on up Archangel Valley you definitely need clearance. We only saw pick-up trucks and large SUVs on this trip. (Last year even small cars were making it.) Big rocks stick up out of the steep road and for a while we followed a thin trail of oil where someone's oil pan had been ripped open on a rock. (Beware!)

McRoberts Valley, Chugach Mountains (8/5/06) (2006-08-09 02:52:25)

McRoberts Valley, east of Palmer and east of Lazy Mountain on the day of the Matanuska Peak Challenge, the brutal 14 mile race with 9,000 plus feet of elevation gain. Not for the faint of heart. We hiked up the easier McRoberts trail (rather than up and over Lazy Mountain) to cheer the runners, including Ben, on! View is looking west towards the Matanuska Valley.


Matanuska River (Feb. 18. 2006) (2006-02-19 10:05:58)

By mid February we start to notice longer days and that the sun 'has heat in it.' A break between fronts let sunshine splay across the wide Matanuska River plain Saturday afternoon. We hiked to the 'mini butte,' a forested protuberance among the braids of the Matanuska River with clear evidence that the main river has flowed both on the east and the west of the mini butte.

View east towards Knik Glacier looking across the main Matanuska River channel.

Further evidence of the 'blue bird' day -- northwesterly view along a slough in the Matanuska River channel towards Matanuska (aka Byers) Peak. These sloughs are a favored habitat of Dippers.

mountains 2006 ~ Alaska blog archives ~ Nature & Literature Blog



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