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Bald Eagles Everywhere – Alaska Day 2 (Sunday)

When we awoke, we ate a delicious breakfast of crepes before jumping into the pickup to take our kayaks to Cooper Lake. The road was gravel and eventually proved impossible to pass. The snow was very deep in places and without cell phone coverage we did not want to try to plow through. Instead, we hiked down a stream until we reached the lake. The view was superb. We stayed on that shore for some time, enjoying the view while skipping stones into the lake.

A while later, we drove to the Russian River Trail and walked about two miles down a gravel path to see a large Class V rapid. The rapid was quite impressive and made up for the uninteresting trail. We didn’t want to return the same way we had come, so we opted to take the alternative trail back. The trail was noted as un-kept and “not passable in areas.” We quickly found out just what that meant.

The trail followed the river, which had unseasonably high waters. The river was so high, in fact, that much of the trail was submerged and therefore nonexistent. We were going to have to bush-whack our way back to a road. We fought our way through branches and thorn bushes, traversed rock faces over the river, and kept a keen eye out for bear. We had seen scat and plenty of prints along the few usable sections of trail. One print was estimated to be six or seven inches wide! Though there were bear in the area, we were not too concerned because we were in a group of three and had a .44 magnum revolver at the ready.

After getting many scratches and scrapes, and with quite tired bodies, we finally found the road. We were glad to be finished, but had also enjoyed every step we had taken. It was a wonderful day, spent mostly off-trail in the Alaskan mountains. We drove the 100-mile stretch of road back to my friend’s home and enjoyed the beauty of the ride. There were two moose grazing in a marsh on the inland side of the road and on the bay-side were more bald eagles than I had ever imagined could be seen in one place. The tide was low and the eagles landed on the newly uncovered sediment and rocks along the bay. I stopped after counting 15 Bald Eagles  in five minutes of driving. Alaska is so natural and wild. It is a place unlike any other I have ever visited.

 
 

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Death is always near – Alaska Day 3 (Monday)

The day began with another trip to REI to check what new items may have found their way onto the returned-items discount rack on the last day of the big sale. Just as we arrived, a cart came out to restock the shelves. A 2-person Eno hammock for $20 was the most appealing of the bunch, but I already owned a 2-person hammock and had no need. We sifted through the surprise items but found nothing we couldn’t pass-up. We then moved on to mowing the one lawn we needed to mow before we could hike.

Me with Anchorage in the background

Our hike was an ascent of not more than 2,000 feet to the top of Flat-Top, Anchorage’s most-summited peak. It was a beautiful view but there were far too many people on the trail. Clouds were coming in quickly and the wind was only getting stronger as we went higher, so we kept a brisk pace to ensure sufficient time to summit in nice weather. The summit boasted a beautiful view of Anchorage and the bay on one side, and the mountain-range on the other. I nearly snapped a picture of a bald eagle with the mountains as a backdrop, but he flew too fast and I could not get to my camera quickly enough.

As we enjoyed the view, the cold wind began to get the better of us and we decided to head back down. The first 100 feet were a sketchy mix of ice and rock. I knew we would be fine, but there were many others around, which made me a bit nervous. Just like driving on the road, it is typically the other drivers one needs to be most worried about. After carefully picking my way down the very icy first few moves, I was perched on a small rock with my friend only inches from a 15-foot drop onto a large rock, and then down a very, very steep and long icy avalanche chute that led directly into a pile of sharp rocks a few hundred feet below. I was firmly planted in my position and am quite accustomed to situations like this where I must be very careful about my movements because a mistake can have deadly consequences. I soon realized, however, that this time was different. I was surrounded by people, rather than doing this on a remote trail where I am the only one who could make a mistake.

I crouched to lower my center of gravity, and grabbed tight to a rock in case of being bumped by one of the people coming up who we were letting pass. The very moment my hand tightened on the rock, I heard a rushing sound and felt a woman plow into me, nearly knocking me off the edge. She hadn’t waited above where she should have, but instead began climbing down towards us – where there was no room to spare. She lost her footing and slid down about ten feet before hitting me with all her force. I thanked God for the urge to take extra precaution in a situation I never had before, and I made her go down the mountain ahead of us. One close-call was enough. I sat down for a moment and pondered how close I had come to death once again. It always seems to happen when the situation is just safe enough for one to think they can let their guard down. Its a good thing I don’t let that happen.

When we reached a less sketchy section of the mountain-side, we watched as others jumped onto the icy snow and rode it down about a hundred feet before digging in their heels to stop before the snow ended and the rocks began. After multiple inexperienced people had gone down the same chute without hitting rocks or losing control, we opted to take this fun short-cut down the mountain. The ride was quite a rush, due in part to the element of danger, but we ended up just fine. Our hands and faces were numb from the snow which was so icy it reminded me of a giant snowcone, but we were having a blast.

When we finally returned to the jeep, we ate peanut M&M’s (an essential for any hike) on our way back to the house. Once there, we enjoyed a barbecue with the neighbors and heard about the mother moose and two baby moose that had come to the house while we were out. It is so cool how many animals we come in contact with here. I wonder what it used to be like in the continental 48 before the human population got out-of-check.

 

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Linville Gorge Expedition is posted

See it now!

also the list of gear I will be reviewing is posted in the main section of gear reviews

I want to see the list

 
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Posted by on 27 September 2011 in Backpacking

 

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