After my long hiatus, the thought of catching up on my travelogue seems overly daunting. A lot can happen in a month, a lot more than can possibly be summed up in words, so I will substitute mostly pictures for now, in lieu of spending my entire evening trying to remember what happened three weeks ago, much less a few days ago.
In light of this, we will begin with a photo:
With a lucky streak of amazing weather last month, I took it upon myself to explore some new trails on my days off. That Friday I hiked a couple miles out and back along the Indian River trail, a (thankfully) flat trail that parallels the river into the mountains. Apparently the last mile takes a steep upward climb to a waterfall, which I hope to get to next time.
Most of the trail is in the riparian ecosystem, but one part of it veers off into the muskeg. Muskegs seem incredibly foreign to me, even though they’re somewhat comparable to our swamplands back home. Unlike the swamps however, the soil in the muskeg is so acidic, nothing can grow very big. So all those trees you see in the picture are actually hundreds of years old, but their growth has been stunted for that long!
Muskegs also have these scary mud pits that are basically like quicksand, but stickier. Everyone who is from here has horror stories of knowing people who have accidentally stepped into one and sunk all the way down to their earlobes in the thick, sticky black substrate. No thanks! Kind of makes me wonder though, what kind of bones and artifacts could be at the bottoms of these pits from other unwitting victims of the muskeg’s greedy soils!
Muskegs are also great because they offer breathtaking views of the mountains. Especially on a clear day like this one was.
|Benefits of solo hiking: derpy selfies|
|Juvenile bald eagle|
|Cute plank bridge|
|I will never get used to the color of Alaskan rivers|
|The river and the trail|
After hiking back to the trail head and biking home, I took a quick shower and then headed out again for a spontaneous camping trip with a couple people from work.
I had no idea what to expect, and was not told we’d be hiking up over 3,000 feet in elevation in under 2 miles. In other words, my thighs and knees were to hate me for the next week and a half! With big backpacks stuffed with our tents and sleeping bags, we bushwhacked up a narrow trail for over 2 and a half hours as the sun made its lazy descent across the western sky.
At one point we stopped to cool off at a stream by dipping our hats and bandanas in the icy water. I felt like we’d been hiking for hours, so I jokingly commented, “What are we, like a quarter of the way up?”
“Yep, just about,” was the answer. And he was totally serious. We were barely up the mountain. At some points I literally thought I would never make it up, but I kept pushing myself one step at a time, feeling slower and slower, my knees shaking and buckling under their lack of strength for this type of workout.
|Wait, when did we get to Middle Earth?|
|Sunset on the mountains|
I was always awed by the tundra sunsets when I lived in Nome, but I’ve gotta be honest: this one put all others to shame. The 360 degree views of the mountains, the coves, the little mountain top lake were unprecedented. I wish I’d had a proper camera to more accurately capture the scene.
Watching the pastel colors smear across the sky, we ate our dinners of fresh smoked salmon right off the skin and sandwiches. Ptarmigan voiced their hilarious calls (seriously, google it) as we hiked back down to our tents.
That night no one really got any sleep, between the ptarmigan calling all night and the hard rocky ground, and the frigid temperatures that the evening brought with it. I was perfectly happy in the morning to forgo further mountain climbing and head back down to the car! We had a hardy breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, refilled our water bottles with purified water from the lake, and trekked down in record time.
It was definitely my most adventurous weekend yet, with many memories made and lessons learned, and for sure the most incredible views I have seen yet!