from the previous page.
The main advantage of
continuing on the steeper, more gnarly trail through the tundra for
another half mile above the second bench to the higher overlook is to
see all this -- and more:
Above and below: Eklutna Lake is about 12
miles long. A scenic multi-use path
follows the north shore back into the
mountains toward the lake inlet in the distance.
outlet is on the west end of the lake closer to the parking area.
over Eklutna Valley toward Knik Arm (the ocean "fjord" north
The arrow above Knik Arm points to the snow-capped
volcanic mountains west of Anchorage.
Looking back at Twin Peaks
SUMMER ON STEROIDS
Before today's hike I re-read my journaling and looked at photos from my
2012 hike on this trail and noted the abundance of wildflowers
but not many leaves on the trees at the higher elevations.
Today there were noticeably more leaves on the trees and shrubs but
very few wildflowers under 1,800 feet. Just below and above tree line
some species were more plentiful, especially purple- and fuchsia-colored
fireweeds, white yarrow, and goldenrod:
of fireweeds above tree line on the slope of Pepper Peak
Fireweeds bloom from the bottom up. These at higher
are at or near peak; ones closer to sea level have
Berries have replaced the white dogwood-shaped
flowers on bunchberries
and their leaves (among others) are starting to
turn the tundra red.
There were only a few blue geraniums, cream Indian paintbrush, and white
cow parsnips in bloom today and no lupines, purple asters, bluebells,
daisies, bunchberries, wood roses, mountain cranberries, or dandelions.
That surprised me because I was up there just six days later than in
2011-2012 was a tough winter and cold, rainy summer. This past winter
was very mild in
Alaska, and it's been a warmer, drier summer. Leaves and flowers both
came out earlier this year.
I also noticed that some plants in the tundra were turning red more than
I observed at Denali National Park at the same elevations a week ago:
Above and below: pretty medley of leaves in
transition; summer sure is short here!!
More reddish leaves on the southern slope of Pepper
Peak above Eklutna Lake
Although fewer flowers were a bit of a disappointment, everything else
was better this time.
What a difference light and perspective make --
early morning above, afternoon below.
Still about a dozen sheep visible as I descended; note the one on the
rocks under the arrow.
I went up another half mile on a little trail above the second, higher overlook this time, hoping to
see what was on the other side of the mountain to the north:
Because of time constraints -- I needed to get the truck back to Jim by 2 PM so he
could get the tires rotated at Sam's Club -- I didn't continue to
the top of the ridge.
But I could see a little farther in all directions than I could at the
Eklutna Lake inlet is highlighted.
Glaciers feeding the lake.
I came down through the tundra a few feet off-trail to avoid some loose
rocks on a steep section . . .
. . . and discovered a
large area of blueberry bushes just loaded with plump, ripe berries. Yum!
I was surprised they
were ripe this early.
I ate only a few before continuing my descent.
On the way back down the mountain several people asked me about blueberries
and one man had a large container he was filling. I didn't tell any of
them about the large patch I found. I want the bears and birds to have some!
They can't go to a store and buy some.
This group of seven people was on the hunt for
By the time we came back to Anchorage a few days later I'd learned that
there are plenty of berries to go around and it's one of the favorite
activities of both locals and visitors to go berry-picking. In a
subsequent entry I'll show how much fun Jim, the dogs, and I had on
Rendezvous Peak when we picked blueberries with abandon.
THE DESCENT = A LOT MORE COMPANY
I mentioned seeing absolutely no one on the whole way up to my high
point on Pepper Peak. I loved that.
While at my high point I saw two people at the overlook below me. They
went on back down before I reached that spot again. I counted another
52 people ascending the mountain while I was going down the last 2+
Here are some more
pictures I took on my descent:
in the distance
Narrow trail through fireweeds
The parking lot was full and a bunch of vehicles were circling it, waiting to
pounce on spots when others left. Maybe they should have arrived earlier on a
Today I hiked a total of 7.12 miles at the lake and more later in
the campground with the dogs. Elevations ranged from 728 feet at the lake to
3,475 feet at my highest point, which is a pretty good gain and loss in
3.56 miles each way. Total elevation change was 5,625 feet.
This is my GPS track:
I walked down to the gravel "beach" before going back to the truck so I could
see what was going on there.
It looked like folks were having a good
time but oh, my, I bet that water is cold since some of it comes from
I could see this bright green grass (photo above) from
the high overlook on Pepper Peak. The lake outlet is to the right.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT JBER
Jim took Casey for a run with the bike in the morning, then rode 16 miles
solo on base.
He realized late yesterday that the truck tires are wearing
unevenly. He decided to take the truck to Sam's Club this afternoon to
get them rotated.
One more tundra plant medley from today's hike . .
Since we're headed in the morning to Portage Valley and Seward, where groceries and
other items are more expensive, we also re-supplied this afternoon at
Sam's Club and WalMart. We got gas for the generator and diesel in the
truck for $3.31/gallon each, minus 5% with Visa. Fuel will also be more
expensive in Seward.
In Alaska, the farther you travel from Anchorage or Fairbanks, or the
more popular the area is (like Denali NP), the more
expensive everything is.
Next entry: camping niRVana at Williwaw Campground
n Portage Valley
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil