Monday, June 6, 2011

Hiking in Alaska

Today is my day off at the office. I took this time to explore Alaska and go on my first of (soon to be) many hikes. I choose to go to Chugach State Park and take the Thunderbird Falls trip. This is the "flattest hike" within 150 miles of Anchorage. Notice I put "flat" in quotes because there was about a 400ft elevation change across the journey.

For this trip Terri (my host mom) equipped me with Bear Spray. It is basically powerful, powerful, pepper spray. Terri also asked if I wanted to take the family dog, Jorge, I love animals so naturally I jumped at the opportunity. Before leaving Terri gave me a crash course in bear and moose encounters. In days past people were told to drop to the ground if one encounters a bear, but research has shown this just sparks the bears interest in "what just happend to that thing that fell down". Now if crossed with a Grizzly, Kodiak, or black bear the best option is to stand there and back away facing forward while talking to the bear "good bear, nice bear, i'm leaving now etc". I am also told that bears will do a false charge, so if you can handle the fear to stand there, they charge at you and then if you dont move they get in your face, pout and breathe heavy into your face and lose interest.
Got Jorge, the dog, my bear spray, and pack: I'm ready to go!

I also got a crash course in moose encounter. The goal is to get the moose between you and a tree, a big tree and play peek-a-boo until it looses interest.
Jorge, he walked me more than I walked him

My total hike was about 3 miles as I wnt to the falls viewing deck and then to the river at the bottom and hiked along the river for another 1/2 mile. Then I turned around and hiked back, making a round trip of about 3 miles. Let me tell you going down was much easier than coming back up

The waterfall from the viewing deck.

Jorge and I at the top of the viewing deck, water fall behind us.

I finally got to the waterfall it was gorgeous. The viewing deck was a nice boardwalk/bridge path. There was a lower viewing option which was not so pleasant. It took Jorge and I down a steep slope that was coated with mud. It has rained the past few days so that did not help things. Once we got to the bottom the trail followed along the river. It was a shallow yet fast flowing river. I saw several fish but none that I could identify.

Jorge greatly enjoyed the river as you can see from the picture above. He took no time in walking right in to the frigged stream as there was snow still on the river shoreline.

The hike back was much more difficult as mentioned. It was basically all up hill and the mud, just as going down, also made going back up a challenge. The view as I walked along was absolutely stunning. I did not run into anything too exotic. There was a butterfly, and a few birds but the biggest animal I saw was Jorge my faithful companion leading the walk.

A completely hollow tree, you can see right through it and yet it was growing leaves.

On the drive back to my house I realized the full beauty of the Alaskan land that surrounds me. Today was the clearest day there has been since my arrival. I was able to see Mt. McKinley off in the distance. I took a picture of it but the camera makes the mountain look like a faint white cloud so none are posted here. Terri tells me the best time to view McKinley is at sunset as it reflects hues of pink, orange, and purple. Needless to say I will not be staying up that late as the sun does not set until past midnight. 

On the drive back I also pass through the residential area. It surprised me at first to find that each home on this particular lake has it's own airplane. Airplanes are the number one mode of transportation here in Alaska and the majority of the people own a pilots license. I took a picture as shown below of some of the airplanes as well as the far view of them parked out front of residence homes.

Today was a great day as my hike was fantastic. I know I will have many more hikes as it is one of the top things to do around the area. One of my congregation members even gave me a welcome gift: "Hiking Alaska". It has every hiking trail known and then some as of 2010, I will not be able to hike them all but I intend to conquer several in the Chugiak area.

This picture was not taken today, but basically sums up how Jorge and I felt after the hike :)

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