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While in Alaska over the 2001 summer solstice, I took a number of day hikes with my sister Laura. With the solstice causing non-stop sunlight, hiking became an entire day effort. Our first hike was into a valley in the north part of the Chugatch. We left Anchorage around 3:00 PM, knowing we still had 9-10 hours of hiking if we wanted it. Within twenty minutes (going only two exits away on the local "interstate"), we were deep into an isolated U shaped valley of Alaskan proportions. Heading out on the hike, we saw moose and mouse, magpie to bald eagle, and view upon view. 

Chugatch Trail
Laura researching flower names

Alaska is a great place to spend the Solstice. Here's an excerpt from a letter I wrote during the trip:

"I am actually having to work at imagining what it means for it to be dark outside. It has the slightest twinge of strangeness attached to it now. Just imagine never experiencing darkness or stars, and to behold them for the first time. Darkness seems to have adopted just a glimmer of abnormality that makes me pause and say, 'there's something peculiar about not being able to see, not being able to feel heat on the skin, not feeling like you should be awake despite everything your body is telling you'

Laura Looking Hike along the U-Shaped Valley
Another Study of Bunchberries
Glissading Grizzly

On this first hike, we were lucky enough to see a grizzly. While stopping for a bite of 7:00 PM lunch, we spotted a huge male grizzly glissading down a huge snow bank on the slopes directly above us. Laura and I just happened to take a rest at a spot directly between a 1500 pound grizzly (cranky and hungry from just waking from Hibernation) and its fresh moose kill. Watching him slide down the snow banks -- he seemed to be having a ball, and we stood enthralled. Until, we realized that he was sliding right towards us at fair clip. 

The view from Flattop Mountain

Another day, Laura and headed (within the Anchorage city limits if I remember correctly) to the Flattop trailhead. The view from its top plateau is fairly encompassing, allowing you to see Anhorage and the Turnagain Arm. Along the way up, I started over-heating and took time out to photograph some of the wildflowers. 

Unknown Alpine Flower Phlox
View from Flattop
Laura A'Top Flattop
Lucious Lupine

June, despite the endless sun, still seems to be early to mid spring in Alaska. Luckily, there were enough wildflowers peeking out from their winter slumber to excite my photographic rage for a picture of every flower in existence. 

Laura Considers. Mountain Remains.

When I was in Alaska over the solstice in 2001, the bunchberries were in full bloom. On some of the hikes, the forest floor was carpetted with bunchberries. The flowers have a great deal of character, and when combined with the texture of Oak Ferns, my photographic tendencies could no longer be suppressed. 

Bunchberry and Ferns
Ferns and Bunchberry, 2.

Bunchberries and Ferns were in full bloom. I loved the texture that they gave. 

Western Polemonium
Fern Texture

When I returned in 2002, I visited my family in Homer, where my sister was now living. Seeking the outdoors, I headed acroos the bay and tented out for a night under the local glacier. 

On the trip, I had to cross a river using this pulley. It was shear hell. I managed to get out across the stream halfway, but pulling the car across the river required incredible effort. After resting for 10 minutes, I met the one and only other person for the entire two day trip, as he came up to the platform. Being only halfway across and quite stupid, I decided to wheel myself back. Exhausted, we both climbed on board, and starting heading across again. We took 6-7 rest breaks and eventually made it across, exhausted. 

Torture Device
Overview of glacier and valley

When I arrived to what I felt was a suitable campsite, I took out my tarp for a tent and started to set up shop. I heard some rustling near by, and was surprised to see that I had a mom bear with a cub on the hill beside me — and they had not yet seen me. I hoop'd and hollar'd until they started to make their way out. As the climbed away into the distance, I managed to get at least a small picture of them. 

Panorama of the Valley

I then headed up with a lighter pack to get a closer look at the glacier. I was amazed to see only animal tracks in the dirt and lake shore mud along the way. I knew I was remote, and early in the season. I found myself repeatedly entranced by the voice of mountains for higher and higher viewpoints, until I was nearly trap on a perilous cliffside over the glacier. It was one of the more dangerous things (i.e. stupid) that I've done in my life. 

Glacier and Green
Green and Blue
Icebergs in the lake

Upon my return, I found an even bigger, male grizzly bear walking along the lakeshore, and in between me and my camp. Again, I repeated my hooping and hollaring, but a bit more scared due to the lack of trees around and the short distance between us (and admittedly, due to his generous waist line too). Luckily, he headed off reluctantly. When I got back to camp, three bears in four hours finalized my desire to build a fire for the night. I also pee'd with manly shakey pride all around the perimeter of the campsite in order to claim some territory. I slept under the tarp with no problems, except a few bear roars in the far distance (the other hiker, perhaps?)

The next day, I did stupid mistake #2 — being totally in fear of not the bears, but rather the pulley cart over the river, I decided to do a river crossing with my big bag. More than once I nearly lost footing, as the deeper than expected and swifter than expected river reach up above my waist. My walking stick was the only thing that saved me when I had to face down icebergs from the glacier rushing down the river! I wanted adventure, and I found it quite easily in Alaska. 

(c) Geoffrey Peters,, 2002. For more information regarding this web page, please contact
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