3870 and so much fog

Aug 4, 2012 | 1 comment

Ever since I got back from Serpentine, I don’t think I’ve seen a single day of sunshine (save for an hour or two here and there). There’s been thick cloud cover, casting Nome under a grey, soggy wet cloak that seems to seep the warmth out of everything in its shadow. Everyday to and from work, I find myself joining other Nomites in a sort of hopscotch between the muddy patchwork of puddles across town, huddling down against the biting wind that throws a heavy mist in your face head-on.

Needless to say, I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about going on a hike in this weather to a mountain known as “3870,” named for its height. But hey, it’s my job, so who am I to argue? In preparation for our center’s Saturday hike, I joined one of the interpretive rangers for our routine scouting of the trail.
View up the creek

As expected, the glacial valley between 3870 and its neighboring peaks was totally shrouded in fog. We weren’t going to hike the entire mountain, but rather an area adjacent to it that would theoretically offer a spectacular view on a clear day. As it was however, all we could really see was a few hundred feet ahead, and a loud, rushing creek that ran down through the valley.

Icy cold water

Heading into the thick of the fog

Cool mushroom thing

Visibility was clear enough under a certain elevation, but as we climbed higher into the mountains it grew thicker and thicker until we could only maybe see 100 feet ahead. If it weren’t for the varied terrain and the roaring of the creek down below, the scene would have been entirely disorienting.

Fog. Just Fog. Lots and lots of fog.

Redpoll, in the fog

We hiked up a gentle slope for about an hour and a half before deciding to descend again where the visibility might be better. The hiking was slow going up, but after our week in Serpentine, it didn’t seem difficult at all. As we got down near the riverbed again, we noticed a thick blanket of icy snow over the creek. Snow! In August!

Part of the river still frozen

Scrambling down the steep grade, we came down to check it out, and found it was about 3 feet thick in some parts, and you could hear water rushing underneath it. We walked down the side, upriver, careful not to walk on any weak parts.

Melting snow

Cool crack

Beginning to break

After we got past the snow, there was a lot of river to cross to the other side, but along with the melted area were many wildflowers and birds flitting around. It wasn’t easy navigating the wobbly stepping stones across the rushing creek, while trying to take photos of all the cool stuff around!

Cute little wildflowers

An American Pipit!

Beautiful moss in the river

Cool wildflower

Eventually we made our way across and back to the road on the other side of the river, weaving up and down the steep, rocky slope as the fog began to lift by mid-afternoon. Ground squirrels chattered at us from their holes, and the creek down below roared constantly, sounding much bigger than it actually was.

In the end, I was glad I went on the hike, despite the still-unfavorable weather. By the time we left the fog had begun to clear and the sun peeked out for a few minutes on our way back to Nome, but unfortunately it didn’t stay, and today was just as dark as ever. 
On another up-side, I’ve gotten the schedule for my next backcountry trips! The week of August 20 I will be traveling out to Imuruk Lake and the Kuzitrin to experience volcanic lava flows and the archaeological sites there. Two weeks later, Sept. 3-7, I will be heading back to Serpentine Hot Springs for some more maintenance work and hoping for better weather for photo ops. 
Regardless of the many challenges here, my work seems to have been well received by the NPS, now that I’m finally producing photos and writing for the park. Many of my photos have been featured on BELA’s Facebook Page and shared by groups such as Alaska Magazine; the BELA website, and on their new staff blog, for which I am also now writing. 
I can’t believe the summer is already almost over here. Three of our summer staff have already ended their terms and by next month we’ll be down to about 3 interp staff (including me!) for a while. We have maybe another month and a half before it starts getting actually cold and we settle in for whatever climatic atrocities the Alaskan winter has in store for us. 

1 Comment

  1. NotaClueGal

    Love the photos! So glad this for you having this experience!

Leave a Reply