Thursday, July 12, 2012

Interlude: Hitting the Trail

View from approx. half-way up the trail looking towards the Matanuska Peak massif.

     Finally managed to get in a good day's hike with a bonus breakout of decent weather: a ten-mile ramble in the Chugach State Park up the Matanuska Peak trail. Along with Lazy Mountain, this cluster of peaks is situated right next to Palmer, and sits in-between the Matanuska and Knick rivers which in turn border the Chugach and Talkeetna ranges respectively.
     Fresh snowfall, an encroaching front plus hitting my own personal wall meant bailing out before the final mile/last thousand feet up to the summit itself, but I gained enough elevation to catch Hatcher Pass peeking out on the horizon, and spent hours sitting on the tundra taking in magnificent scenery. The alpine meadows were carpeted with brilliant blooms, and marmots, ground squirrels, magpies and songbirds filled the air with their calls. Far off in the distance immense clouds of glacier silt rolled across the view, and the muffled roar of runoff made for a white-noise backdrop. The trail emerged from woodland and a confusing network of false paths after weaving underneath a towering canopy of eight-foot stands of Devil's Club Cow Parsnip and through lush growths of fern. Once upon the tundra the footing morphed into more rugged terrain with colorful texture of lichen and rock adding to the palette.

View from base of Matanuska Peak towards Lazy Mountain and Talkeetna Range.

     Unfortunately the solitude was marred by a couple of jerks on motorbikes violating the non-motorized park rules, but karma being a bitch, they were probably greeted at the trailhead by a friendly ranger (not a good idea to piss off a hiker with a camera and a cellphone). The other annoyance was some loud, flashy joggers who left behind a pile of trash and food while they went on for the last two miles up to the peak. It was obviously too much of a hassle to pack everything, so they opted to bait and habituate wildlife with their litter instead. This brand of careless ignorance leads directly to such tragic results as seen on a recent race, and doubtless these folks and another individual I saw were in training for a similar event on that same trail later in the season. Of course it's arguably only a matter of degrees in perspective that separates criticism of people who mindlessly charge through nature from some idiots who just simply hike into it, but it does speak for itself that I happened to actually be admiring some pretty flowers when they first went stampeding past. One of the invaluable lessons wilderness teaches is that life's not a damned race, and one of the core reasons behind seeking solace in the outdoors is to get away from those that do.
     Minor disturbances aside, overall it was a nice trek into the next-door wilderness that hems in the masses of humanity here in Alaska - as opposed to the reverse situation in most of the Lower 48, where isolated oases of nature are instead surrounded by encroaching civilization. And along with my poor knees, it served as another reminder that this definitely ain't Acadia anymore...

A few more images uploaded here.

"HEY - What's for LUNCH?"

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