‘Breaking Tired’ en route to an old haunt
The author at “Flag Mountain,” with Eklutna Lake in the background.
FRANK E. BAKER
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.
My plan was to follow Peters Creek trail for about 1-1/2 miles, turn left (east) on the Mt. Eklutna trail, ascend to the top of that peak, at 4,049 feet, and then follow the ridge east to Peak 4040, which my son and I named “Flag Mountain” back in the 1980s. We erected a flag there and over the years I’ve maintained it.
From “Flag Mountain” I planned to follow the ridge south that overlooks Four-Mile Valley on the west and Thunderbird Valley on the east-- all the way back to Peak 5505. From there I’d drop down into Peters Creek Valley at about Mile 7 and follow the trail all the way back--in all, about 18 miles. I made this trip many years ago in about 14 hours. But I was a lot younger then, and time has a tendency to blur the memory more than staying up too late, gripped by Netflix addiction.
So on this day, June 4, I called “Flag Mountain” my turnaround point. I strengthened the pole with rocks and added a fresh, new orange shirt for flagging. I took some photos and finally plunked down for a lunch break as clouds gathered and darkened overhead. Running low on water, I mixed snow into my stainless steel water bottle.
Hiking to nostalgia
I’ve returned to the site numerous times over the years and it always makes me nostalgic for the days I hiked there with my kids. During those years we lived in the Thunderbird Heights subdivision. This mountain and the surrounding area were more or less in our back yard. I sometimes brought my big Newfoundland “Charlie” up there and once had to divert his attention so as not to see a black bear that was foraging just below the ridge.
An ultralight pilot who flies out of Birchwood Airport once told me that he and other pilots often used my flag to gauge wind direction. Over the years ferocious winds knocked the flag down on several occasions, so I’d continuously venture up there and strengthen it with more rocks.
During my lunch a large eagle glided silently overhead. I couldn’t tell if it was an immature Bald eagle or a Golden Eagle -- but it was big. It made a few circles to size me up, and then moved on, taking advantage of the thermals to quickly build elevation.
I glanced south out along the ridge to Peak 5505, and it seemed so far. Would I ever get back out there? Maybe I’d do it with more rest, an earlier start and a hiking buddy to spur me on... but not today. I was already a bit tired, and I’d have to climb some to retrace my steps back along the ridge to Mt. Eklutna.
I was actually quite satisfied with the day’s hike, especially seeing my bright orange flag flying in the breeze, with Eklutna Lake in the distance.
Budgeting the right amount of time and setting a proper pace is really important on any hike. I’m pretty good at that, but woefully inadequate when it comes to rationing my television consumption. “Breaking Bad” has me “Breaking Tired.” I need re-training on how to use the “off” switch.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.