During this transition from summer to autumn and then winter, the rapidly diminishing daylight can sneak up on us. As we lose more than 35 minutes of daylight per week, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves scurrying and stumbling along the trail in an attempt to beat the darkness.
Hiking east on the ridge past Mt. Eklutna (4,110 feet) above Peters Creek, Pete Panarese and I had our first glimpse of our entire route--a 17-mile circumnavigation of the entire Four-Mile Creek drainage. On most hikes a person only sees single parts of the trip at a time; but here it was laid out before us -- and needless to say-- was quite intimidating.
Anyone who isn’t aware we have one of the best berry crops in years has been locked inside a closet. If you’re inclined toward hiking above the tree line you’ll notice a proliferation of blueberries and crowberries. I haven’t seen it myself, but I’m told that down toward Girdwood and farther south on the Kenai Peninsula, the wild salmon berries and raspberries are also profuse.
For those who have perused my ‘Mountain Echoes’ column over the years, it’s probably quite evident what my favorite hikes are. But there’s nothing wrong with a review. What I hope is to peak your interest in trying a few out yourself. I’ll start with my absolute favorite and work down the list, with the caveat that even number 10, at the bottom of the list, is stellar in my opinion.
Between marathon sessions of the television series “Breaking Bad,” suffering from a precipitous drop in my daily sleep allotment, I’ve tried to fit in several hikes to take advantage of our beautiful May and June weather. A recent sojourn, however, reminded me that acquiring sufficient sleep is quite essential for rigorous activity.
A hike to Flute Glacier during summer and fall is definitely a rewarding trip that allows you the trace the geologic history of glacially-carved valleys (South Fork Valley and Flute Glacier Valley). Flute Glacier is about 25 miles due east of Anchorage, and while it is the city’s closest glacier, it doesn’t receive much attention from hikers.
I realize everyone is now into summer and things that are green, but I’m still catching up on some late-winter outings, one of which was a memorable ski March 19 across Carter and Crescent Lakes on the Kenai Peninsula, in Chugach National Forest.
Following snow machine tracks up a mountain seems like cheating, but it’s probably one of the more efficient ways to get up 6,441-foot Gunsight Mountain during winter, whether you prefer skis or snowshoes.
My friend, Pete, told me that former Denali Park Ranger and mountaineering legend, Dave Johnston, had pioneered most of the trails in the area, including those on Kesugi Ridge. Encompassing 325,240 acres, or about one-half the size of Rhode Island, Denali State Park was established to the south and east of Denali National Park and Preserve in 1970, and it expanded in 1976.
At roughly 4,000 feet, the ridge narrowed and steepened on both sides. It was loaded with wind-driven snow — much more than we had anticipated. It was time for a decision — do we keep going, or turn around and call it “good” for the day?