Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


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"I am the eternal optimist. No matter how rough it gets, there's always light somewhere.   
The rest of the sky may be cloudy, but that little bit of blue draws me on."
~ Paul McCartney

Go, Paul. I'm the same way. His quote is perfect both literally and figuratively for this entry.

Some of my favorite hikes when we were in Anchorage three years ago began at trailheads up Arctic Valley Road in the Chugach Mountains, the closest alpine trails to our campground at JBER.

That's the area I chose for my first hike during this visit to the Anchorage Bowl.

Zoomed-in view of Symphony and Eagle Lakes from Rendezvous Ridge

Today was mostly cloudy but the clouds were high enough to see all the mountain peaks this morning when Jim rode his bike on base and I hiked with the dogs. Jim cut his ride short at 22 miles when some much-needed rain began falling in the valley. He rode hard so it was a good workout for him. I barely felt any rain on Rendezvous Ridge.

What became a too-common weather pattern during our stay in Anchorage occurred today -- in the late afternoon it became more sunny and would have been prettier to hike and ride but we'd already done our primary outdoor activities by then.

Temps ranged from 55-75 F., which is average or above. Perfect! No complaints there.

Looking back at the Arctic Valley Ski Area buildings;
the parking area is below this and there is a fee to park here.

In the morning I drove up very dusty, rough Arctic Valley Rd. to the trailheads at the ski resort for Rendezvous, Gordon Lyon, and Little Teton Mountains. The first half of the road is paved; the last 5.4 miles are dirt/gravel and full of "corduroy" (washboard surface), same as three years ago.

It would be a fun road to ride our bikes if it wasn't for the dust. Jim did it once in 2012 and swore off doing it again -- because of the dust.

Scenic mountain view from Arctic Valley Rd.

There was only one other vehicle in the parking area when Cody, Casey, and I arrived. Then another car came in, and a bus full of noisy elementary-age kids. We managed to keep in front of all the noisy kids, who didn't go up the mountain very far. 

I had three choices of going up to the long ridge on the south side of Rendezvous Mountain. I chose the most common route on the north side of the mountain that circles clockwise to the saddle between it and Gordon Lyon. 

We went up the main route on the right side of the creek and came down on the other side (arrow).

Cody looks ahead toward the first saddle. The peak of Gordon Lyon is on the left; Rendezvous is right.

Partial view of old Nike missile base on one of Gordon Lyon's ridges;
the immediate area is still off-limits except for occasional guided tours.

Looking back down the main trail to Arctic Valley; Anchorage and Cook Inlet are in the distance.

From that lower saddle I continued up the steep east side of Rendezvous to the higher saddle between it and Little Teton Mountain.

I didn't see anyone else up there or on the ridge to the south.


Above and below:  views of Eagle River valley from the saddle between Gordon Lyon and Rendezvous Mtns.


Trail going up to Rendezvous' summit and the saddle between Rendezvous and Little Teton Mtns.

View down to lower saddle and Gordon Lyon summit from part way up trail to Rendezvous Mtn.

Above and below:  Approaching upper saddle between 
Rendezvous and Little Teton Mtns.; the long ridge is to the left.


Almost to upper saddle; rocks on right are on Rendezvous (a spur trail goes
up to the summit).  There is a ski lift on top of Little Teton, left.

I began at about 2,685 feet at the parking lot and climbed to 3,988 feet on Rendezvous Ridge. I had a total of about 3,200 feet elevation gain and loss in five miles.

I didn't go up to the summits of any of the three mountains. Been there, done that. I was more interested in walking along the ridge. I went south on the ridge about a mile before turning around. I didn't want to go too far with Cody.


Above and below:  hiking south along Rendezvous Ridge


The trail undulates along the rocky ridge, with views in every direction.

View down to Eagle River valley, which also has trails

View SW toward the Anchorage "Bowl" and Cook Inlet; the white groundcover is lichens, not snow.

Heading back north along the ridge after turning around

Approaching the high saddle between Little Teton (L) and Rendezvous (R)

Although it was cooler on the ridge and there was some wind I was plenty warm in shorts and a light fleece jacket. I loved seeing all the views to the city, JBER, and Cook Inlet to the west, the Eagle Valley to the east, and lots of Chugach Mountains in every direction.

There isn't much snow anywhere this June, similar to the views I got in August, 2012. In mid-June and mid-July of that year I went through some snow on the ridge trail and there was still quite a bit on the mountainsides.

Here's an example from three years ago at about this time:

Above and below:  snow on the Rendezvous Ridge trail on June 23, 2012

Even as late as July 19 of that year, there was still some snow remaining in that section:

I'm glad I got to see the ridge both with and without snow. 


The flowers are also ahead of most years since it has been so warm the last six or seven weeks. I loved seeing all the wildflowers today.

There were lots of pretty blue geraniums, mountain bluebells, and lupines, lavender asters, purple violets, white cow parsnip, yarrow, and bunchberries, cream and yellow Indian paintbrush, yellow mountain sunflowers, bright pink fireweed and Parry's primrose, lighter pink prickly roses, and some others I can't remember:



Mountain sunflowers unopened (above, on the exposed ridge)
and opened (below, lower down the mountain)

Higher up were white alpine phlox, dwarf bistort, partridgefoot, sandwort, and marsh marigolds, pink moss campion and mountain cranberry, low-growing pink kinnikinnick, yellow mountain avens, rusty red kings crown sedum, blue alpine harebells, yellow mountain sunflowers and buttercups or Cinquefoil, and the airy whitish-green lichens that cover large areas of the alpine ridge:  


Above and below:  pretty alpine medleys


On the way down the back side of the mountain I descended the alternate trail that isn't as steep as the one I went up.

When I got to the main trail I crossed the head of the creek to the Mt. Gordon Lyons side and bushwhacked down that side until I found the rather overgrown trail I've hiked before:





Cody's far ahead; he can always "smell the barn" when we're heading back to trailheads.

The dogs did great, although that was a bit far for Cody at twelve years of age. He was a little stiff later in the afternoon. After supper we walked the dogs around the campground so we could all get stretched out.

When we were walking around the campground this evening two couples said they saw a large bear near the entrance a little while earlier. We missed it that night. It might have been the one that climbed into the back of our truck about ten days later.


We heard two disturbing Alaska items in the news today

1) A sampling of the Haines public water supply, done twice a month, just revealed e. coli so residents and visitors are warned to boil any water used for drinking, cooking, tooth-brushing, etc. until the water tests negative again. We were just there a few days ago; I guess we dodged that bullet.

2) Nine people, including the pilot, were killed this afternoon in wet, windy weather while on a flight-seeing trip in the Misty Fords National Park area north of Ketchikan, Alaska. The passengers were on a day trip from their Holland America Cruise Line ship.

A few days later I read that one older couple had just gotten engaged on the cruise. Another couple had retired from their jobs two years ago and recently purchased a motorhome to tour the continent. We could really identify with them and hope they've been doing some "bucket list" things since they retired.

You just never know if today's gonna be your last . . . At least they were having fun when they died.

That may sound flippant but I don't mean it that way. I've said before that I'd rather die face down on a great hiking trail, doing something I love, than face down in my soup. Just sayin'.

Next entry:  a beautiful evening hike on Mt. Gordon Lyon

Happy trails,

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

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil