Our friend Pam in Talkeetna organizes weekend rambles throughout the year. On Halloween (no, not technically November but pretty close) she suggested hiking in the Peters Hills. Fourteen of us, plus Bhikkhu, carpooled out past Petersville to tromp across the tundra. A few inches of snow had fallen, which made it easier to cross the dwarf willow and grassy tussocks. The day was brilliant and clear, possibly in the high 20s, though a stiff Arctic breeze from the north made it difficult to tell. The reward for braving the cold and wind was looking at sculpin under the ice of a high lake and reaching a view of the Alaska Range (Denali on the right in the above photo). After a beer at the Forks Roadhouse, we went to Rick and Kathy Ernst's where Kathy had prepared a meal for 14 on an hour's notice because Trapper Creek Pizza, our original dinner destination, was closed for the month.The following weekend we went back to Talkeetna for more rambling. On Saturday Paul played ice bocce with a group on Lake 5. Bhikkhu and I hiked out to the Susitna River with Ellen, Kathy, Molly, and Loki. We shuffled along clear ice on Birch Creek slough and the edge of the river. Unlike the previous weekend, the day was gray and calm. More typical November. B and Molly found salmon carcasses to nibble (before we chased them off over and over), and Loki and I both wondered if the ice was really thick enough. I could see to the bottom and it looked like a thin layer of ice over clear air.
On Sunday we joined a group at Talkeetna Lakes. Seven of us skated for an hour on X Lake before a large group arrived for a hike. Then we switched to hiking boots and started on the trail around X and Y Lakes. About halfway around, we dropped off the trail to a frozen wetland. On the other side, we entered a forest along a creek. Our destination suddenly appeared in the midst of the birch and cottonwood - a huge erratic boulder left by the glaciers.
From the here the group split. Some returned to the trail. The rest of us, listening to some crazy voice, opted to hike out up the creek through a canyon. This route took us through high golden grasses, across frozen oxbows of the tiny creek, through spruce muskegs, along birch hillsides, and into thickets of alder. Bhikkhu made most of the return trip in my arms or Paul's jacket because the undergrowth was thick and his back legs slipped into a hole in the ice at one crossing. Just as the sun set and we wondered if our leader really knew where he was going, the thin asphalt ribbon of Comsat Road appeared ahead. Pam and Roger hosted the entire ensemble and more for soup and potluck at their house.
Eventually he needed to get a haircut and we took him to a groomer. By then we thought he probably is a purebred bichon but we didn't need to have him groomed like one. Just an all-over cut, maybe a little shorter on his legs. The groomer managed to detangle the mats on the backs of his legs and on his stomach; and she cut him like a Bichon Frise. That's what he was for Halloween.