19 July 2006 Powerline Pass

For the past 7 years my Wednesday evenings from April through September have been devoted to riding with the Wombats of Anchorage (Women's Mountain Bike and Tea Society). I've become a much better mountain biker by riding weekly with the 'bats and have made some great friends. We meet at various trailheads around Anchorage, mostly riding in two large municipal parks. These parks offer rooty dirt trails through birch and spruce groves. My favorite ride of the summer, however, is up Powerline Pass. We drive to the edge of Anchorage to a trailhead in Chugach State Park, the huge park to the east of Anchorage. We pedal half a mile through a grove of twisted mountain hemlocks to reach the rocky four-wheel drive road that heads up the treeless valley to the pass. The road is closed to vehicles in the summer. Few hikers walk more than 2 miles out the road, and few bikers go up there. So soon we have the trail and valley to ourselves. We turn around about 5 miles out at a tundra lake up against a ridge.

The openness of the valley and pass are a welcome change from the trees of Anchorage. I love the forests of Alaska, but we're often in them at home, at our cabin, on our camping and kayaking trips. So many of our Colorado trips took us to the high country. I don't realize how much I miss those alpine tundra landscapes until I'm in this valley, able to see miles around me. In the summer we often see moose on the other side of the valley. One winter while skiing here, I saw a wolf loping along high up on the hillside. He embodied the free feeling I had, high in these mountains, yet only a few minutes from my home.

(This year someone discovered this huge boulder next to the trail and those with good upper body strength pulled their bikes up for photos. That's not me in the photo -- I'm taking it of course. That's my friend, Jamie, who was born the same week I was in 1965.)

15 July 2006 Cruciferous

Even though it seems like July has been nothing but rain, with continual cool temperatures and clouds, we had received less than .05" of rain during the month. Wednesday and Thursday seemed like summer had finally arrived, with high temperatures hitting 75 and clear sunny skies. But the clouds returned early Friday morning and by afternoon it was as dark as it's been since early May. The rain started late afternoon and continued through the night and into Saturday morning. It rained 1.6" and now we're more than an 1" ahead of the normal month-to-date precipitation. The weather may have changed our Saturday plans, but the vegetables, trees, and lawn seem happy with the soaked ground. Greens seem just a little more vibrant today and leaves are shiny with the moisture.

2 July 2006 Big Lake

On Sunday afternoon the sailing club took up a collection for fireworks. The only town, and four stands, that sell fireworks in southcentral Alaska are less than 10 miles away. Fireworks on the 4th of July really don't have much oomph in a place where the sun just barely sets behind the horizon from about midnight to 4:00 am. But the skies cooperated this evening when heavy clouds moved across the sky, blocking the sun. The kids, with some adult supervision, set up the fireworks on a gravel pad just off the end of the dock. Most of us sat around the campfire a hundred feet away and oohed and ahhed as the colors burst against the backdrop of gray clouds. The fireworks show lasted about 20 minutes.

And then the sun dropped below the clouds and gave us its rendition of 4th of July fireworks.

1 July 2006 Venus of the Primrose

We found Venus in a souvenir shop in a Tuscan village in May 2005. She now graces a stone in the primrose garden behind the house. This spring the primroses seemed to be bowing down to her, subordinating their beauty to hers. She took their obeisance in stride, as any goddess would.

22 June 2006 Morrison

After Telluride we drove back to the Front Range to visit family. One of the highlights was an outing to Morrison with Anne, Dylan, and Nell. After a filling lunch at the Blue Cow Eatery, we went to Bear Creek park for a hike. Dylan hunted for crayfish in the creek and the rest of us tagged along for the adventure.

17 June 2006 Telluride Bluegrass

We attended our 8th Telluride Bluegrass Festival. As always, we stayed in a condo that John reserved, and lost out on rooms with private baths to John and Julie and festival divas, Cindy and Pat. Jim Gavin (the man hiding behind his hand) slept in line to get us the usual primo tarp location.

For some, like John and Julie, Telluride is about the music, the people, and the setting.

For others, like Paul, it's about the festival food -- hippy stir-fry, breakfast burritos, New Belgium ales, and a new-to-Paul taste treat -- the flank steak.

9 June 2006 Matanuska River

About a dozen people from the Matanuska River Watershed Coalition rafted the Mat River one cool June day from Chickaloon to Palmer. Along the way we viewed old and more recent attempts to control the course of the river. The earlier pioneers tried cars along the banks. The Department of Transportation now uses boulders and riprap where the Glenn Highway runs along the river. We saw homes that are losing the battle with the river, going from river-view to river-front to river-at-the-door. This large glacial river will continue to do what it has done, meander through its valley with its heavy load of glacial silt.

The day started with the promise of clearing and sun but turned progressively colder as we neared Palmer. The upriver wind became stronger and stronger. The oarsmen were pulling hard to move us against the wind and avoid gravel bars. The river becomes increasingly braided after passing through a canyon just upriver from Palmer. We eventually passed under the Old Glenn bridge and scrambled up the bank to the waiting van and trailer.

28 May 2006 Denali

You can't have a blog with photos of Alaska and not have one of Denali.
On Memorial Day weekend we did the traditional overnight float of the Susitna River from Talkeetna to the Parks Highway bridge with a bunch of our Talkeetna friends. The weather was windy but sunny. While the rest of the crew played bocci or croquet, I experimented with my new digital camera, including this shot up river to Denali. The other mountains are Foraker and Hunter.

24 May 2006 Alex

The first picture with the new digital camera -- Alex reading the instructions to me. She is such a brilliant cat! Can you believe she's 17? She's kept her girlish/kittenish figure all these years.

1 July 2005 Canning River

Our last camp was about 20 miles from the Arctic Ocean. We hiked on the tundra on the last full day and saw a young wolf and a grizzly sow with two yearling cubs sliding in a lingering patch of snow. We circled back around the river, crested the last rise, and found thousands of caribou on both sides of the river. Here on our last day on the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we had finally caught up with a large band of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. One group was walking single file across the aufeis, appearing to have crossed from the east side (our side) of the river to the west side. They passed a group of 50 that were laying the ice. On our side, hundreds were grazing on the northern extension of the tundra bench we were camped on two miles to the south. They made a pastoral scene spread out along the green field. As we scanned and scoped the west side, we saw hundreds of caribou moving south along the river and hundreds more on the plain farther west and north.

I crawled into my tent that night wearing fleece from head to toe. I woke up at 1:40 am and the chill Arctic wind of the day before had finally stopped. I crawled out of the tent to river and fog. On the other side of the river, I could see a dozen silhouettes of caribou moving up river through the fog. I woke again at 6:40 when Lisa told me that caribou were crossing the river near camp and going up a stream drainage near by. Within minutes they were all up the drainage, though hundreds still moved south along the west side.

24 June 2005 Marsh Fork

I went on a 10 day natural history trip to the Marsh Fork of the Canning River for members of The Nature Conservancy. As the TNC representative and supposed naturalist, I talked to the members about The Conservancy's work and goals in the Arctic and helped with natural history as I could. The real naturalists and river guides were Wilderness Birding Adventures (that's Bob and Lisa in the photo). Our first layover day was at the base of this canyon and the holy grail of birding for that day was to be the gray-headed chickadee. After a leisurely breakfast of pancakes, we all headed out on a hike. We started out wearing sandals so we could cross the creek, then changed into hiking boots. About a half mile up, we crossed back over the creek to access a waterfall inside a cave. Then back across the creek and up a steep, rocky slope to the top of the canyon wall. Near the top of the slope, Ted or Lisa spotted the gray-headed chickadee. We all parked ourseves on the slope and watched two chickadees flit about in the willows.

August 2003 Prince William Sound

We rented the Harrison Lagoon cabin in Port Wells for 3 nights. Jim and Kathy, Doug and Ellen joined us. The day we paddled to the fjords was bright, hot, and sunny. D&E swam, very briefly, amongst the icebergs where we lunched.

July 2001 Katmai

We spent a weekend at a ranger's cabin in Amalik Bay on the coast of Katmai National Park. Paul's official duties as Chief of Maintenance were to upright the outhouse that a bear had turned over and to determine what parts were needed to repair the heater in the cabin. Those tasks took about an hour. We spent a day kayaking around to the islands that protect the bay from the full force of winds and surf of Shelikof Straits. The islands had sandy beaches backed by dunes covered with blooming lupine.