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?
If you haven’t yet seen the motion picture “Gravity,” I urge you to go and splurge for the IMAX 3-D. It is quite literally and figuratively an “out of this world” cinematic experience.
The alpine tundra atop Kesugi Ridge in mid-September was ablaze in autumn red — the bearberry and blueberry bushes creating a colorful grand finale only days before winter’s white cloak would fall upon the land.
There was little wind and the sun was warm on my face Oct. 4 atop a Kenai Mountain ridge that bisected two valleys — Bear Creek on my left and Palmer Creek on my right — the latter one of the richest gold mining areas on the Kenai Peninsula from about 1895 through the 1930s.
Sir Edmund Hillary, Bradford Washburn, Fred Beckey and Yuichiro Miura. What do these people have in common? They’re all famous mountaineers. What else? They all lived (Beckey and Miura are still alive) past age 80 — primarily because of excellent physical conditioning acquired through a lifetime of rigorous physical exercise.
With a few inches of new snow above 3,000 feet, my annual autumn climb up Gunsight Mountain on Sept. 20 quickly became more of a winter climb, as I paused to take some photos of Dall sheep that browsed on grass just below the snowline. I’ve seen them at nearly the same location on other hikes and in typical fashion, they grew nervous by my presence and made a quick disappearing act into Glacier Fan Creek Canyon.
Not long ago, I wrote a short poem about a bird and emailed it to Tom Sexton, a recognized Alaskan poet. He replied with his own poem, also about a bird, that he’d written a day earlier.