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Flashback Friday

Mount Prindle - July 2010

The Analogy Between Hotel Ratings and Hiking Ratings

It takes almost two hours to get to Mt. Prindle parking lot from Fairbanks. Most of the hikes you do around Fairbanks sets you on a journey of at least 1 hour in any direction. This summer I went with a couple of friends from the university. We all wanted to explore and see everything Alaska had to offer. We started early in the morning from Fairbanks, and got to the parking lot with plenty of time before lunch. The parking lot is also a campground, but this is not where we camped. Doing Mount Prindle takes at least two days, well depending on how fast you want to hike I guess. We just wanted to get out there. There is a stream crossing right off the bat, and most of the trail overall is kind of soggy, so we decided to go with the Tevas for the trek in. If there has been a lot of rain leading up to the hike, people sometimes can’t even start the hike because the stream crossing is just too dangerous.

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It’s a 19 mile return trip, and about 8400 feet in total elevation change, and the hike is marked as difficult. I once had a climber friend who said that climbing routes and their grades are almost like hotel reviews, I wonder if hiking routes could be consider that as well. Not to say that this hike was anything easy. I think that these ratings are rightful, it also makes you think an extra time before taking on the hike. Mostly I think these ratings are because of the possibility of weather changes, lack of water to drink and in this case also some stream crossings that can be very hard to do if there has been a lot of rain the past few days. Also you are in bear country too so another thing to remember. It’s about 6 miles if I remember correctly to the place where we ended up camping. There is a creek flowing fairly nearby and you have a panorama view of the tors.

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Camping and Moments of Joy

You are not allowed to camp in certain areas around here, so always good to check online, at BLM, exactly where you are and where you are not allowed to camp. We had arrived so early, it was only lunch time, so we set up our tents, had some food and then we went on a short hike to get a first taste of the tors. We goofed around on the tors and enjoyed the view. Later in the evening we had good food and s’mores and other candy for desert. Hot chocolate was also consumed after dinner.

I don’t remember there being a spectacular sunset, or sunrise either for that matter. But also, back then I wasn’t so used to taking photos, and also was better at soaking up the moment itself, instead of being busy taking an awesome photo. It’s a balance, a balance between being too caught up in photography and enjoying the moment. This is your moment, don’t loose it by being too caught up in taking a perfect photo. I often struggle with that balance.

Dall Sheep and the Everlasting Question: to Conquer or not to Conquer?

The next day I woke up by a noise, something was definitely outside the tent. Something was munching on grass right next to my ear. I glanced through the mosquito mesh next to my head and saw a white creature, a Dall sheep. These sheep didn’t seem too scared of us but held themselves to a greater distance after we all got up for breakfast. I think there most have been 20 or so of them in total. Later on we could see plenty of them on the hillside farther away from our campsite.

Today we set our goal to conquer the tors. We were six people, and while three of us hung back at a slower pace, the other three were long gone. It’s not the end destination that is the goal for many hikes, it’s the hike itself. That is another thing that people sometimes have a hard time with, or just have a different opinion about. It’s cool and so on to conquer mountains, but the trip there is what makes it worth it. Aren’t you most interested in the hike to the summit, rather than the summit? Oh well. I guess I am secretly excited about the summit as well. These tors are like something taken out of Mordor, or at least that is what I think the look like.

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Mordors Nest, Periglacial-Glacial Landforms, and Solifluction Lobes

This specific area has such an interesting mix of cold-climate processes, something that is a bit rare in this region. A lot of the interior of Alaska was not glaciated during the most recent glaciation, but the area around Mount Prindle had isolated glaciers. You’ll see leftover moraines as you look around towards the foothills of the mountains, and on the ridge line of Mount Prindle you’ll see the characteristic tors. On the sides of the mountains you can see these half moon shaped (Solifluction Lobes) masses slowly making their way down from the mountains towards the valley. These landforms are the result of thawing permafrost.

We spent several hours up on the ridge line and the tors. We climbed around, took photos and had a good time. All the photos of me are taken by my friend Amy. The hike is not hard if you spend the night in the area, what often makes this hike hard is the constant weather changes. We had rain and a cloudy sky during part of our hike, but we were also lucky enough to have some blue sky peeking out from time to time.

Have you done any hiking that you will always remember?

A Blast from the Past

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Flashback Friday

Dreams about Alaska

All the photos I have ever taken in my life lay scattered on two different external hard drives. Both are backed up to an online backup site, because although I said all I have lost too may photos I loved. The rate at which I take photos exceed the rate I share them. Before I went to Toolik in the summer of 2010 I bought a dslr camera, the cheapest one, a Canon Rebel XS. It is still my partner in crime, even though I dream about getting a new camera. Someday. Every now and then I open Lightroom and browse through photos dating back to 2010 and the first summer I spent in Alaska, completely untouched photos, as if I had forgotten about them, and I had. That summer was one of the best ones in my life, and I got to go on many different adventures. That summer I went on my very first helicopter ride, I walked on my very first glacier, I went into the mountains of Alaska for the first time, I fell in love with the mountains, I saw the aftermath of a forest fire, I started rock climbing and ice climbing once the temperatures slowly droppen, and I became friends with so many other people who just like me were also just so star struck by Alaska. The summer after that I fell in love with Denali, I fell in love with W, and then it just snowballed. More Ice climbing, cross country skiing, canoeing, kayaking and the list goes on.

Memories

In Lightroom you can create collections of your favorite photos. I have about 3500 of them, and that number keeps increasing for every time I open Lightroom. Yesterday I browsed through that favorite collection and was pretty amazed about all the things I have done, we have done. We have been to places I could only dream about when I was younger, and not even then did I. It’s not only photos from Alaska of course, but other states as well. Traveling is one of the greatest things on earth, and going on a roadtrip is definitely something I love. Below are a few of my favorite photos from Alaska, but also other places I have been.

The Most Beautiful Drive in America

Photocredit: My dad!

Photocredit: My dad!

Flashback Friday

Beartooth Pass and Beartooth Highway

I had never heard of beartooth pass before the summer of 2017. The field crew had driven through the beartooth pass on the way to Yellowstone, and W drove through the beartooth pass back to Wisconsin at the end of his field season. W told me how amazing this place was. He’d gone there when he was younger of course, but forgotten about it. Since my dad was gonna come that summer for the wedding, I planned our trip to go through the beartooth pass and on the beartooth highway.

Endless mountains

The Beartooth Pass is exactly what it sounds like. A pass through the mountains, the Beartooth Mountains. You drive up in elevation and then you drive back down again. The Beartooth Highway is one of the most scenic highways in the US, 68 miles of unbelievable landscape. I know there are quite a few of them, but if you are into mountains, alpine lakes and camping this is the route to choose. If you are lucky enough to backcountry hike too, by all means you have to. This part of the US is so beautiful. I was driving the whole way so I didn’t get that many photos of the actual drive, but my dad took plenty. We camped near the top of the pass so I have plenty of photos from there. Most of the campgrounds on the Beartooth Plateau are first come first serve and cost between 10-15$. Beartooth highway runs through Shoshone National Forest. As with most National Forests in the US you can do dispersed camping, which is free but comes with some restrictions you’ll have to read up on. Additionally, you will have no amenities, which mean no running water or toilettes. Obviously they don’t take card at most places and you have to pay the fee by adding the exact amount to an envelope, so we always had cash, dollar bills and larger bills to be able to pay the camping. When you get to a campground in the US you drive in, search for a spot, park the car and then walk back to the fee station. There you grab an envelope and fee slip, add the fee and put in all information of the car and camping spot on the slip, and then you take one part of the slip for your car and leave the other in the envelope with the fee. Usually there is a permanent groundskeeper at most popular campgrounds, they can usually be found in a large RV somewhere close to the fee station. Their job is to answer questions and to empty trash, clean toilettes etc.

Top of the World

Since we had been driving all the way from Madison, WI, this was our second camping night. The night before we had stayed at a free campground in Badlands National Park. The drive between Badlands and Beartooth Highway was fairly short, compared to the one we had done the day before. I had picked out a couple of campgrounds to choose from, close to the “top of the world”, which is the highest point of the pass. I had written down the campgrounds I was interested in based on photos I could see on google maps, plus I really wanted to be next to a lake. We rolled into the first campground on my list around 3 pm (Island Lake campground, which is an all first come first serve camping ground) and managed to snag the second to last camping spot. Success. The campground sits at a whooping 9,500 feet, and the highest point along the Beartooth highway is 10,974 feet! The first thing we did was to set up camp, we had two tents which created a lot of space for us. Then I handed my dad the bear spray and taught him how to use it if need be. You are in bear country now, even though the highway is high up in elevation the bears are around.

Camping in Bear Country

When you camp in bear country there are a couple of things you need to think about. First, smell. Had we been in the backcountry we would have chosen more carefully what we would cook, and in a campground with a lot of other people around I tend to feel more “safe”. You also can’t control what other people cook so, I feel like it doesn’t really matter what you cook at a campground. At the campgrounds in bear country you have to store your food in a bear proof locker, which they provide you with at the campground. In most areas the car counts as a bear proof locker, but in some areas like Colorado this is not always the case, because the bears have learned to open and break into cars. In northern Wisconsin and Minnesota they recommend you to cover your cooler if you keep it in the car, since bears have learned to associate coolers with food and will break into your car if they spot a cooler. When I first moved to Alaska I got accustomed to sleeping with a knife by my hand in the tent. I had heard stories about bear encounters in tents, and also during field safety classes and outdoor classes they talk about the importance of being able to cut yourself out of a tent. Obviously these things don’t happen, maybe once in a blue moon, but if it does, at least you are prepared. Somewhere during the years in Alaska I started to forget about this and it wasn’t until a couple of summers ago, when 2 people in two different locations were killed by two different bears within a couple of days, I remembered the importance of a knife. That summer I forced W to buy a knife for his upcoming field season. W and I have car camped a lot by now, and a fair bit in bear country, we spent a week or so car camping in Yukon and British Columbia during my move from Fairbanks to Madison. We have a pretty good system going now, and we are pretty used to our car camping kitchen set up, even though it sometimes fails if we haven’t done it in a while.

And the we Marveled about this Beautiful World

After dinner we took a walk down to the water. It was such a beautiful evening, calm, pretty warm, plenty of mosquitos, but a little DEET usually takes care of that. I am always so amazed about how beautiful the world can be. I mean just look at it. We spent quite a while down there, by the lake. Watching the colors of the sky change, talking about the roadtrip and everything we had seen. As I look at these photos now, I can’t believe how beautiful it was. And the fact that it is so easily accessible, well, once you are in Montana and Wyoming.

Smell of Fire

The next morning we woke up to the smell of fire and a bloodred sun. Just as in Alaska, Montana and Wyoming have fires too, and this summer was no exception. Just like our wedding day we could see the haze in the distance this morning. We started the drive fairly early, but first, we had coffee and breakfast. Our next stop was Bozeman, and to get there we were going to drive through Yellowstone. The roads along Beartooth Highway was actually fairly empty, which surprised me. There are always motorbikes and even bikes along this road, so keep an eye out for them. I can’t remember what the speed limit is here, but it is very low, maybe because it’s so windy and narrow? We took it slow as we drove the rest of the way, watching the beautiful landscape go by, all the mountains, the forest and the random animals along the way.

What is the most beautiful highway you have driven?