2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

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   RENDEZVOUS RE-DO:  WHAT A DIFFERENCE 
ONE WEEK MAKES IN THE CHUGACH MOUNTAINS

SATURDAY, JUNE 30

 
"Everything changes but change itself. Everything flows and nothing remains the same. 
You cannot twice step into the same river, for other waters and yet others go flowing ever on."
 
~ Heraclitus
 
 

What a great day!

This was one of our prettier days in Anchorage so far. That was a pleasant change, as were the differences I discovered on my hike today.

Although it was overcast yesterday when Jim and I rode our bikes on the Coastal Trail it became sunny in the evening. That's happened several times in Anchorage and it's a bit maddening because we prefer to do our rides/hikes in the morning or early afternoon. We'd love to have some sunshine then.


View toward sunny Anchorage and Cook Inlet from the Arctic Valley Rd. in the Chugach Range

This soon after the summer solstice, when it's sunny in the evening it isn't anywhere near dark yet when we go to bed. We're getting used to that. It'll seem odd when it's dark at bedtime later in the summer!

It was sunny when we got up this morning and stayed sunny all day in town -- Jim loved that. Temps got up to the low 60s F. in the Anchorage Bowl (valley) where he spent the day.

I was almost 4,000 feet higher in the mountains and in a very different world, as you'll see.


The Chugach Mountains were covered in clouds most of the morning and afternoon.

We went separate ways this morning. Jim wanted to ride his bike downtown to see the Vietnam Moving Wall in the Delano Park Strip and attend a memorial service to honor Alaskan military troops who died in Viet Nam, Iran, and Afghanistan. I'll write more about all the things he did and saw in the next entry.

I preferred to use a sunny day for a hike with Cody in the Chugach Mountains. That's the focus of this entry.

SUN? WHAT SUN??

Since it was nice and sunny in the valley this morning I assumed the nearby mountains would be nice and sunny, too.

Not! I could see all the clouds hanging over them as soon as I got to the entrance of the campground at 10:30 AM. Oh, well, I could still see some sun during my hike.

I never did get above all the clouds on Rendezvous Ridge but the mountains had a beauty and mystique of their own with the clouds moving in and out.


Interesting blue hole in the clouds at the trailhead parking area this morning

This was my second trip to the Arctic Valley trailhead. I planned to hike to Rendezvous Ridge the same way I did a week ago but go farther along the ridge itself this time.  

There were only 9-10 vehicles in the parking lot at the ski area when I arrived and fewer people on the trail than last Saturday. I had to pay $5 to park again. I could have parked outside the ski area and walked in for free but I preferred to use that time to hike farther on the ridge, not the road.

Just from the parking lot I could see that a lot of snow had melted since I was up here last Saturday. That also meant the trail would probably be wetter until I got up to the ridge.

The first half mile is on mostly dry, wide gravel trail with an easy grade. Then the trail splits:


Where did all the snow go??  Rendezvous Peak is on the left;
Little Teton's summit is under clouds in the distance.

Last weekend I followed the main trail to the left along the creek through the valley between Rendezvous Peak and Mount Gordon-Lyon. It is longer but a more moderate grade than the trail to the right, which ascends the ravine between Rendezvous and Little Teton peaks near one of the ski chairlifts.

The trail to the right is a much steeper -- and much shorter -- way to get to the saddle between Rendezvous and Little Teton peaks, which is where I'd begin hiking along Rendezvous Ridge. 

UP, UP, & AWAY

When I got to the trail split I decided to save time by climbing up the shorter, steeper trail on the Little Teton side of the snowy ravine that I butt-slid partway down last weekend.

That wasn't the greatest idea, however. I'm not sure I saved any time going this way even though it's at least twice as short as the main trail. I fell into the same trap as last Saturday -- from where I was standing I could see up to the saddle. When I was up on the saddle last week I could see down to my truck. This route is the most direct way going either direction. <sigh>

The main problem today was the deteriorating snow. In the intervening week since I was here much of the snow has melted, what's left is more icy because it has thawed and refrozen, and the ground where the snow has melted is muddier.


The plants are still brown where the snow just melted.


Some parts of the trail were very muddy. This IS a drainage, after all.

I had to detour around most areas where the trail is still covered with snow. It was just too icy to walk on or dig my feet into for traction. I didn’t even consider butt-sliding down this steep slope again today because of the current conditions.

I was in and out of snow all the way up the ravine. The higher I climbed, the more dry the trail:

 

The climb up this secondary trail is pretty steep – a 1,062-foot gain in 7/10ths of a mile. (I consider a thousand feet per mile to be relatively steep. Everyone's perspective on that is different.)

Elevation at the parking lot is 2,629 feet. The trail intersection half a mile up is at 2,878 feet. The saddle 7/10ths mile above the intersection is 3,940 feet. All these are per today’s GPS readings, which can vary from day to day and device to device.

Mama Mia! Trust me when I say that these photos are deceptive regarding how steep an incline it really is in some places. Fortunately there are a couple of little plateaus along the way.


Looking back down to the parking area from part way up the ravine


One of two chairlifts on Little Teton; last week this whole area near the saddle was under snow.

Between the steep pitch, lack of traction, and detours I had to stop several times to catch my breath on the way up. I used those opportunities to take photos. It took about 30 minutes to complete the climb to the saddle.

No one else came up that way behind me; the other folks I could see took the main trail. Even though it took me a while to get up to the saddle I felt like a real stud!

AMBLING ALONG THE RIDGE

I took a break at the saddle to eat a Clif bar and give Cody some dog bones and water. Then we hiked along the Rendezvous Ridge Trail for 1˝ miles to the south:

It was fairly chilly on the ridge at 3,600-3,900 feet but I stayed warm enough as long as I kept moving. The wind was blowing at about 10-20 MPH and clouds moved in and out the whole time I was up there.

It was "cool" in more than one sense of the word.

Since I'd already seen what most of the valleys on either side of the ridge looked like on a sunny day last week, I wasn't too disappointed at my limited views today. I enjoy hiking in fog or clouds, which give the landscape a surreal quality.


The peak in the distance is where I decided to turn around. It's about 1˝ miles from the saddle.

The next set of photos is in order outbound along the ridge:

 

 

 

 

I was never in a white-out but sometimes I couldn’t see down one or the other side of the ridge to the valleys below.

The Ship Creek valley, Anchorage, and Cook Inlet are to the west,


Lots of white lichens cover the tundra on this part of the ridge.

the north and south forks of the Eagle River to the east:

 
South Fork of the Eagle River (near valley), North Fork in background; photo taken at the upper saddle.

On the way back across the ridge the clouds parted enough to give me a couple good views of pretty turquoise blue Eagle and Symphony Lakes, which lie below the glaciers at the end of the South Fork Valley of the Eagle River:

There is a trail farther along the ridge that goes down to the lakes but I didn't go that far today.

I turned around at the highest peak on the ridge that I could see when the clouds weren’t obscuring it:

 

I took another break there for a few minutes, hoping the clouds would move out so I could see down to the lakes and continue hiking further south.

That didn’t happen fast enough so I started back toward the Rendezvous-Little Teton saddle. I decided there wasn't much point in continuing if I couldn't see where I was going.

Continued on page 2 . . .

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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