Monday, October 15, 2012

Get Up and Go

Last Wednesday I went for a hike up Flattop with a new friend. Flattop is that hike that every place has that everyone has done, except that being Alaska, it's a bit more of a steep scramble compared to most other place's "everyone's done that" hike.
I had not hiked Flattop, but as it turned out, it was the perfect spot to go for the evening. Crystal clear skies, low-level fog, and an October sunset made for vistas to Denali to the north and Iliamna to the south.

The tall ones to the north.

O'Malley Peak and Powerline Pass Valley buried in fog.

Iliamna, Redoubt, and Spurr across the Inlet.
I had Friday off, and I planned for an early start to attack Johnson Pass from the north, riding it out and back. A check of the weather station near the northern trailhead at 10 am revealed an ambient of 19 degrees. That was enough to slow me down and think about maybe a more leisurely out and back to Johnson Lake, a mile south of the Pass.

Clear skies prevailed.

Bench Peak, seen from the shores of Bench Lake.

Looking north from Johnson Lake, just south of the Pass.

Maria Peak from Johnson Lake.

The trail could be described as 50/50: 50% fast, frozen hard pack; 50% other. Other consisted of freeze-thaw mud/slime, plexi-glass ice, hoar frost dirt (looks like its frozen but is actually crystallized and collapses like styrafoam), and a few wheel-swallowing muck holes that looked solid from above but were anything but that an inch or two below the surface. Going was slow, and I could not clean any of the technical sections. Vegetation was non-existent and the trail was dead quiet. I was glad I finally got to ride this section of trail, the only section of Kenai single track I had not yet ridden this year. It's a challenging, entirely different from the south end of the pass, and a place I wish I could ride more often, though the 6-foot+ tall stalks of cow parsnip reminded me of why spring and fall are the only times to come here.

Bridge, mountain, waterfall.

Cold and tired, I stopped into Cooper Landing for food, and carried on to Sterling to crash at the lodge for the night. After talking with Joe for a while on his efforts to retrieve his docks lost in the floods, I went to zonk out.
Nearly asleep, I started to notice my room was getting brighter and brighter. Light pollution is non-existent at camp, except for when ice-fogs set in, and then the ambiance id orange from sodium lights on the highway, not pale green as the rooms seemed to be.
I peered out the window and to the north the sky was alive.
I watched the aurora dance for a while before finally going outside and shivering for a bit. The show was awesome, but the pictures sucked. This was the best I got. Others are more talented in this arena than I: Time Lapse Video
Saturday I rode Crescent Lake Trail. Skies had turned gray. I put together a 1-minute video.

On the way to the Lake I passed only 2 people coming down from a night at the cabin. When I reached the little shelter smoke was still whisping from the stove pipe, and with feet cold from crossing icy streams, I helped myself to the residual warmth inside. I spend a while there, enjoying the quiet, when I noticed it has started snowing outside, hard. The ride out was pretty. Big, fat flakes were falling hard, but only seemed able to make a dusting of a coating on a trail that was otherwise frozen hard. It was one of those rides that you know you're never going to forget.
Sunday morning I was up early to meet Adam. Earlier this fall I helped Adam put is duck hunting gear out on the Knik River just north of Anchorage. With winter moving in quick it was time to pull it, and a good tide early in the morning necessitated the dawn patrol. Fortunately quite a few others had similar ideas, and there was lots of help. Unfortunately, even though we had a pretty cool sunrise, my camera disliked the low light, so I have only a 10 second video.

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