Sunday, March 23, 2014

Alaska: Glen Alps



I was really feeling yesterday’s hike when I drug myself to work this morning but still went up to Glen Alps as soon as I could get away. This spot is just barely out of the city but, once you’re a few steps from the trailhead, can’t be described as anything other than wilderness

The end of Glen Alps road is the trailhead for Flattop Mountain and  Powerline Pass trails. When I first started coming up here Glen Alps road was pretty iffy and if you met someone going the other way one of you had to find a spot to pull off. (Officially the up-bound traffic has the right of way but you have to be reasonable about it.) Now the road is much nicer and there’s a proper parking area up here and even a quarter mile wheel-chair accessible loop overlooking the city.

I’ve been told Flattop Mountain is the most climbed mountain in Alaska and I’m sure that’s in large part because it’s so close to Anchorage. In fact there’s houses just below the trailhead with Anchorage mailing addresses and, if the clouds don't roll in, the view of the city is great from up here.

But, I didn't do much hiking up there this time.  I pulled into the parking area, which, true to the theme of this trip, contained several other cars already, got out, humped myself into my backpack,  turned around, and discovered that I was being observed from the far edge of the gravel lot, by a bear standing right there beside the trail sign!

Without taking my eyes off the bear I reached down to open the rear door so I could return my pack to the back seat. Only problem was I had already locked the car and pulling repeatedly, and desperately, on the handle didn’t do a damn thing to change that! Of course the keys were buried deep in my cargo pants, safely secured by a buttoned flap. . . Once I remembered that as a mammal I have to breathe, I somehow managed to make my muscles work in a somewhat coordinated manor and eventually got that issue resolved, but it sure is difficult to drive when your pack, the one you didn’t take the time to remove, has you crammed up hard against the steering wheel!

Years ago I was up here with several other people from the Anchorage office and we hiked up to the first of two knobs that lead up to Flattop. It was sometime in the spring or fall and there was a couple of feet of snow on the ground.  Tree line is only a few feet above the trailhead up here and when we got tired of freezing our butts in the snow on top of a bald and windy knob, instead of coming back down the trail we went over the side, more or less sledding on our butts in a direct line for the car.  All went well until we got back down to the tree line. There we found bear tracks ambling along just above the trees. Opting for prudence, we too stayed above the trees where we could at least see more than a few feet, (I don't have to outrun the bear, I only have to run faster than you!) and headed across the slope to intersect the trail again.  The tracks happened to be going in the same direction, but as long they kept going it was ok.

When we eventually intersected the main trail we made an unsettling discovery. When it came to the trail the bear had hung a right and followed it uphill, which was alright with us because we needed to go left to get back to the car.  The unsettling thing was that the bear's tracks were on top of the tracks we had made on our way up!

Anyway, I ended up not doing any hiking today, instead I spent my afternoon scrubbing the skid-marks out of my underwear!

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