Sunday, June 7, 2015

Summer Bummers

The summer so far in south-central Alaska has been filled with clear skies and hot temperatures, but our cooling winds have brought more harm than good.  There are always pluses and minuses in each area of Alaska when it comes to choosing a place to live or just to visit. There are mountain ranges, elevation, waterways, fault lines, glaciers, mountain passes and road conditions to consider just for starters. Each area of Alaska offers a unique climate, landscape and hazards. 

I consider south-central Alaska to be one of the best places in the state to enjoy spring and early summer weather during the month of May. Before Memorial Day, skies are usually clear and the weather is warm. This year was no exception, hitting 90° and above, making it one of the hottest months in my memory for the area. Other areas of Alaska experienced more of the same with nine towns reporting record temperatures for the month of May. Our northernmost settlement, Barrow, is usually below 30°, but reported temperatures nearing 50°. Good luck to the polar bears. Elsewhere in the Interior, Delta Junction experienced 90° weather in May, then got a shocking, measurable snowstorm which cut power to 360 residents on June 1. Many other towns around the state added May to the books as their top five hottest May on record. To have temperatures hitting 90° this early in the season seems crazy. The village of Eagle reported 91° on May 23 and a week later it was 28°. 

You also have to understand that with a state as large as Alaska, it is unusual to have settlements from Barrow to Annette experiencing record warm weather at the same time. There are so many factors to consider which influence temperatures across the state. South-central Alaska seems to turn green and experience warmer weather quicker than areas farther south in the state. Coastal areas have to consider Ocean currents which may bring colder weather. If you choose an area like Eagle River, you will experience more snowfall in the winter due to the direction of the mountain passage. If you live in Palmer or surrounding areas, dry, windy weather brings respiratory problems. The blowing silt from the glacial bed of the Matanuska River sends extremely high amounts of granite particles into the air, bringing the air-quality way down. Clear blue skies become hazy and white with the granite particles. Residents of the area around the rivers should be wearing some type of respiratory mask, but I never see anyone doing this. I stayed indoors during the worst periods, but I was still experiencing sinus and respiratory problems.
Blowing silt obstructs clear views of Pioneer Peak and surround areas of the Matanuska
River during dry, windy weather.
On the nicer days I retreated to upper elevations, like nearby Hatcher Pass. The subalpine levels still had a little snow and had Spring had just begun. Wildflowers had begun popping up everywhere and I spent my days photographing these tiny bits of color on the mountain slopes. I'm always amazed at the variety of plant life on these sometimes inhospitable mountainsides. I've heard many visitors to the state say how surprised they were at how many flowers we have. They had assumed that with such a cold state, we would have few wildflowers. In actuality, Alaska's mild temperatures and diverse landscapes offer wildflowers the best growing conditions. From a distance, sub-alpine and alpine tundra may look the same, but upon closer inspection you can see thousands of tiny wildflowers of many colors. I spotted about a dozen different wildflowers in one location at the mid-level elevations of Hatcher Pass during the last week of May. All the people below in the Valley may have been wearing shorts and tank tops, the snowy slopes of upper elevations required more clothing.

Upper elevations in Hatcher Pass, June 1st,
Green has only started to appear,

Baneberry blossoms and background Nootka Lupine
 June 1st in the mid-elevations of Hatcher Pass. Plants
are several feet tall.
On May 17, I made a trip up towards the Matanuska Glacier, the green leaves disappearing as I got closer. Once the glacier came into view, most foliage became brown. Just 30 miles away, the seasons were two weeks apart. Areas like this mean you will have one month less of summer a year. That's pretty significant for a state with 3-4 month summers. In the southwest area of the state, Bristol Bay, it was also still cold and brown. Interior areas of the state tend to have larger settlements in valleys, where growing seasons are longer and weather is more stable. Anchorage sits in a kind of sweet spot, with Cook Inlet on one side and the Chugach Range on the other. One main fault of the city is its unstable soil along the inlet, creating a danger of soil liquification during an earthquake. The other huge fault is a lack of space and housing, especially affordable housing. There is no sales tax in Anchorage, and no state tax, leaving the burden to property owners, which makes owning a home in Anchorage a bad investment. At the end of a 30 year mortgage, the home owner will have paid well over the assessed value of the home between the regular mortgage, property taxes and interest. 
A hike along Pinochle Creek trail near the
Matanuska Glacier May 17.
Trees have only just started turning green.

May 12 walk near Palmer. A lot of early green.
For those of us along the glacial rivers and streams, beside the hazards of blowing silt, we also always have the worries of flooding. Warmer temperatures melt the glaciers faster, causing these rivers to swell to dangerous levels. Houses are swept away and roadways shut down. Roads in Alaska are costly and if it's a main highway, like the Glenn, which runs alongside the Matanuska River, it's also a main artery to many Alaska residents. This past year, the Dalton, which is used by the "Ice Road Truckers" to provide necessary supplies to Prudhoe Bay, was shut down due to unusual flooding and thawing and refreezing of the "Sag" River. The delays were very costly and the state had no choice but to declare it a disaster, to receive federal funding for the damages and delays to truckers. In 2014, the Richardson Highway, once again a main artery and the only road into Valdez, was shut down for a long period due to unusually warm weather which caused massive snow melt and avalanches in the Keystone Canyon and the subsequent flooding of the Lowe River. That section of roadway had just been restored from another recent bout with flooding of the same river. 

Even with all of these "inconveniences", I still prefer Alaska to many other states. I may have a slight worry about earthquakes, but you can choose not to live on top of a fault line. There may be flooding, but you can choose not to live in an area which won't wash away. Avalanches happen, but there are precautionary measures to be taken if you and your government are smart enough. The problem is usually our government. Short term solutions and lack of foresight as well as bad spending cause most problems, not the weather. I'm glad I don't have to worry about droughts, tornadoes and major hurricanes. There's just one worry all U.S. citizens share and it's always watching us, telling us how to make our money, spend it and taking half.  It's no wonder people come here to seek a little cabin deep in the wilderness and live off the land. It sounds like paradise to me.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fairbanks Fun

In late summer last year, my husband and I decided to spend a week in Fairbanks with my sister. Usually, this week vacation would have been spent in beautiful Valdez, but my dear sibling had moved up to a small cabin deep in the woods outside of the city and there was no way I could resist a week of that. I was not disappointed.

A seat made of rigid foam insulation,
 hanging at the ready in a public
toilet in one of the area parks.
I had previously spent time in North Pole, just outside of Fairbanks. My family enjoyed renting a sod roofed cabin for a week each summer, watching the lazy Chena River slowly flowing by in the back yard. It was almost guaranteed that the week would be gorgeous, with temperatures near 90 degrees. That's a big point for the Fairbanks area, to those wanting sun and warmth in their Alaska vacation. Finding lodging in the area can be expensive, depending on location and luxury, so an RV is a good option for spending more than a day or two. Area campgrounds are peaceful and plentiful and I have also enjoyed tent camping as well as RV camping. Hotels are pricey, but many have blackout curtains to provide a more restful night of sleep in a land where the sun just doesn't quit in the summer. Cabin rentals are available for short or long-term stays. My sister rented her cabin for a couple hundred dollars a month for the spring, summer and fall seasons. This type of accommodation is great for someone who wants to rough it, as they are typically hidden far into the city's surrounding forests and have no plumbing or water. Expect outhouses, in varying states of decay. These types of cabins are usually used by the Forestry Firefighting crews, as these guys tend to be out at fires for long periods of time and are happy to have a base in which to return. 
The steam train runs around the perimeter of Pioneer Park as the
shadows grow longer on a beautiful August evening.
A visit to the Santa Claus House and its reindeer was a must, though my parents never once led us kids to believe in the jolly old fat man. I was that one kid in school who didn't have any problem telling classmates that the man in the red suit who they caught placing presents under the tree was their father. It was still exciting to visit the colorful building, where it's always Christmas. You don't have to believe in Santa to enjoy all the decorations and gifts. Tour buses make frequent stops at this giant gift shop, so it can be crowded at times. There are gifts for everyone in every budget, and no one can resist a souvenir from the Santa Claus House in North Pole. Expect to spend an hour or two exploring the complex. It's a lovely location for a picnic, as there are peaceful spots outside with gorgeous views of the Chena and reindeer.
One of Santa's reindeer in North Pole.
The Santa Claus House in North Pole, with one of its murals taken from old issues of Harper's Magazine.
A peaceful day on the river behind Santa Claus House.
Another spot I always visit is Pioneer Park, inside Fairbanks along Airport Way. This is a 44-acre historical state park with free admission. Various events are held inside, and there is a nightly salmon bake, arts center, small restaurants, museums, mini golf and historical buildings. A walk around is always worth it and I've never resisted touring the free Pioneer museum with its amazing dioramas of typical Fairbanks mining history. Tour the large sternwheeler, Nenana II, take a whimsical ride on the small train around the park perimeter and picnic in the park or along the pond. It's dog-friendly with several dog clean-up bag stations. Not everyone visiting is dog-friendly, however, so it's good to keep your furry friends leashed. 
A Kashim in Pioneer Park, part of the
exhibits and Native Museum in Pioneer Park.
It is an example of a sod home,
once used by the Natives of Alaska.
One of the exquisitely detailed scenes from the
dioramas in the Pioneer Museum of Pioneer Park.

My husband poses next to the beautifully carved
mechanical salmon near the Salmon Bake in Pioneer Park.
A fire scar near Chena Hot Springs. Forestry fire-
fighters from Fairbanks worked quickly to stop this
forest fire from spreading to the Resort and homes.

A panorama of some of the shops and museums in Pioneer Park.

There are a couple of tourist trap type of locations: a tour of a working gold mine with a short train ride and its affiliation, a large riverboat which travels to a native village. The gold mine tour ends with the ability to pan for your own gold in a sluice. Everyone finds about $10 in gold. A lot of people have enjoyed both activities, though I opted to pan the old-fashioned way. We traveled up to the Fox area, where we found Pedro Creek. The creek was panned by Felix Pedro, an Italian who put Fairbanks on the map when he discovered the creek's hidden riches of gold. We chose to follow in his footsteps and spend a day enjoying the cool water and warm weather while painstakingly swirling mounds of dirt in our pans. We didn't strike it rich, but we had a lot of fun.

A close-up of a mechanical salmon, something I can imagine must be quite a
source of amusement after the guests at the evening Salmon Bake have enjoyed a few libations.
A tribute to Felix Pedro. There is more information about his life at the Pioneer Museum at Pioneer Park. 
My sister plays with her husky in Pedro Creek, her gold pan
temporarily resting while the dog frolics in the cool stream.

I had never visited Chena Hot Springs, so my sister decided it would be a fun trip to take in the evening. It's about 60 miles north of Fairbanks and we chose to go in the evening for better chances at  spotting wildlife. We spotted a couple moose and a fox on the ride back. There are plenty of areas to explore along the way, including great hiking trails and fishing opportunities. I did not partake in the hot springs experience, but I enjoyed touring the grounds. The gardens are beautiful and there are numerous pieces of antique mining equipment incorporated into the designs. The reviews of the restaurant are fantastic and they grown their own produce in greenhouses heated geo-thermally. There  is an indoor heated pool for the family, indoor hot tubs and an outdoor hot springs rock pool for those 18 and over. The resort also has shuttle service for those flying into Fairbanks. A trip to the hot springs during Fairbanks' bitter winter is something I can only imagine to be heavenly, with the aurora dancing vividly above the rock pool. 

A metal dragon sculpture seemingly breathes fire as the late evening clouds cross the northern sky.
 It is around 11 pm in August at Chena Hot Springs.
A dog lounges comfortably upon a table outside an Artist Studio in Pioneer Park

A hot springs filtration pond at Chena Resort.

The Fairbanks area has enough activities to keep someone busy and my husband and I were active from early morning to evening, thoroughly enjoying our stay. Though much of our enjoyment came from just relaxing with my sister at her little cabin in the woods, the area provided us with a lot of fun and sunshine and I plan on exploring the surrounding areas further. In fact, we began considering a move to the area, as long as we can stay in the woods outside of the city with my sister. Anyone else who may be interested in a move to this northern metropolis should consider how many residences are without plumbing. There are water stations around town where many residents fill up large tanks to transport home and fill up their own holding tanks. Gym memberships can provide a way to shower each day in the city, or one can brave the laundromat showers. Air quality in the winter is bad, due to the cold weather holding pollution from heating vehicles and wood stoves. Summer doesn't always mean good air quality either, as the thick spruce forests surrounding the city are like tinder boxes. Amazingly long days of bright sunshine also mean frequent lightning strikes and forest fires. Not everyone can brave this climate and its rough and tumble citizens. The Fairbanks residents still seem to live in the rugged past, sometimes making it feel like you've stepped into the old Pioneer days. 
A view of Denali from the outskirts of Fairbanks.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ohhhh, Anchorage...

Alaska has its share of problems. One of our biggest has always been infrastructure. There's a lot of ground to cover in this state, and the terrain is no walk in the park to survey, let alone build upon. Anchorage was built as a tent city in 1915 upon orders by President Woodrow Wilson to construct a railroad upon Athabaskan land. Because the city was built by the Army, it was laid out in a very methodical way, but as it grew, a lot of thought was omitted in some areas. Now that lack of thought is biting Anchorage in the butt. 

Besides Anchorage having been built partially upon earth which liquifies and slides into the inlet during large earthquakes, it lacks transportation options in and out of the city with no way to bypass Alaska's largest population. The city should have been built upwards instead of outwards, and the army bases shouldn't have been built in such a way to prevent city expansion, which has skyrocketed property taxes in and around city limits. 

Besides financial and transportation problems with this city, it also has wildlife problems abounding everywhere. This tends to happen when you put a city right between an inlet teeming with marine life and mountains full of of moose and bears. The bears want to get out of the mountains and get to the incoming salmon. Moose come down from the mountains to graze upon low elevation trees, shrubs and open water. Of course, with Anchorage being so short-sighted, they decided to only look at what their human population might enjoy, and completely ignored the needs of its wildlife population. The city built large parks and green strips virtually connecting the mountain with the inlet, and actually expected people to enjoy these parks in a carefree way. I don't know who initially thought this would be a strip of greenery enjoyed exclusively by humans, but I don't think very well of them. Moose attacks are common for bikers and runners speeding along the wooded trails. Just because these people are in the city, they believe it's safe from surprise wildlife attacks. 

Now the city has decided the moose population in its park has risen to dangerous levels. Their solution is a moose hunt within the park, which has happened in Anchorage parks previously. As someone who grew up outside of the cities, I was accustomed to taking precautions when going on my bike rides and jogs along rural routes. Moose were a common occurrence for me since I was a child in grade school. We could always expect to hear from classmates about their morning or afternoon moose encounter at the bus stop. In my neighborhood, houses were not that close and there were kids who lived a mile up the road with no homes within a half mile. These kids rode their bikes or even canoed to the bus stop when spring thaw flooded the route. Shelters are commonly seen along school bus routes which look like children's playhouses. These are built by parents and placed where the neighborhood kids could gather to stay out of freezing temperatures and away from wildlife. In any case, we dealt with the wildlife problem, usually pretty successfully. Why people in the city of Anchorage can't have the same caution within a relatively small stretch of land is beyond me. The only thing I could hope would come from a city park moose hunt would be that the hunters be ADF&G and the meat go to the shelters. 

One uplifting thing I can speak well of is the kindness of several snowmachiners in my beloved nearby Hatcher Pass. They spotted an avalanche site while carefully venturing upon the treacherous slopes of the Talkeetna Mountains. Within this site was something dark sticking barely out of the mounds of hard snow pack. At first believing someone had been tragically caught in the slide, they carefully approached, prepared for the worst. One of the men had a previous experience with losing a fellow snowmachiner in an avalanche. When they finally made it to the dark object, they realized a young cow moose had been caught and possibly slid with the unstable snow 100-150 yards down the mountain. Only its nose was sticking out.  To be able to survive the initial blast of snow, slide that far down and land in a position to be able to continue breathing long enough for someone to see it, is nothing short of incredible. The men immediately began digging, despite possible threat of further slides. They reported that the moose seemed to be begging for their help as they cleared the snow. When they finally removed the pack around the large animal, it stood, probably in a complete daze, until one man patted its rear with a shovel and it miraculously ran off down the mountainside. 

It leaves me with hope for the people of Alaska. Avid outdoorsmen and women who respect and admire the nature of Alaska almost seem to make up for the, well, "other" portion of our population. The ones who are here because they have to be. The people who come up due to jobs, military or (ugh) dividends for their large families. They didn't come here to live with nature, they came for the money. Many of these people live in Anchorage, which is a big reason why I won't live there. I don't see eye-to-eye with quite a few of the Anchorage residents. I worked with them for years, as I preferred to deal with a long commute for my job, rather than live amongst them. Some of them had never been outside of Anchorage. One co-worker revealed he hadn't seen the need to venture outside of Anchorage for anything in the 15 years he had lived there. His vehicle had only city miles, and its destinations were grocery stores, malls and work. What an incredibly boring, monotonous life in a state where such beauty can be enjoyed. I was appalled at how many people in Anchorage felt this way. Rather than violently smacking the man upside his tiny head, I opted to convince him to take his daughter to Portage Glacier for a short day trip. He actually listened and came back with a different outlook. He explained with enthusiasm how his daughter reacted excitedly to seeing such scenery and nature. 

At least, maybe I changed the opinions of one family in Anchorage and opened their eyes to a life of adventure outside of a crowded, poorly planned city. I can only hope more transplanted residents start living the life of an Alaskan, instead of someone living for the money provided by this rich state. There are more than just monetary riches to be gained from this state. Like the beautiful moose frequenting the Anchorage parks.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Getting ready for winter in Alaska can be easy for those living in the cities. Anchorage residents like all-weather tires so they don't have to go through tire change-over, but that usually applies more to those who only travel within city limits. Others line up for studded tires and change-overs at the nearest auto shop after studded tire season begins. For a lot of these people living in cities, the biggest issues for winter survival are tires and winter gear, maybe an auto-start or heating block for the car and perhaps some winterization for home-owners. Then there are those who live away from civilization. 

The true Alaskans must think about heating fuel, food, animals (pets, livestock, predators), winterization, transportation, etc. Though I don't have to worry about all of this in my current situation, I have in the past, and I intend to do so again. I prefer the remote wilderness, being trapped in a cabin while the blustering snow piles against my door and windows, while I watch the fireplace flames dance and crackle. A solitude weighs upon the land, lifted only when the drone of a small plane flies somewhere overhead or the sound of snapping willows cut the silence as a moose grazes outside. It's a lonely season for those living off the grid in Alaska, but it's certainly not some silly new "trend" so many people in other parts of the U.S. are discovering. Unlike many other areas of the United States, Alaskans never abandoned the age-old methods of hunting, gathering and subsistence living. There are still plenty of us who know how to gather food, chop wood and build pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want. 

There's a documentary I find to be a fantastic example of remote Alaskan living, and I highly recommend it to everyone. It is called "Alone in the Wilderness" and it was filmed by, and stars, Dick Proenneke. This man was amazing and watching the film will make you feel like a lazy buffoon, but will also inspire watchers to be more industrious. He built himself a cabin in Lake Clark National Park, and the cabin is still there, for inspired hikers to inspect with awe. There are still some people who live in the ways of Proenneke, although most Alaskans now use snowmachines (don't you dare say snow-mobile to an Alaskan) and four-wheelers to make life a little easier. Of course, these conveniences also bring along their own sets of issues for seasonal preparation. 

With our winters come terrifying winds, strong enough to blow over semi trucks and trailers, motorhomes, campers and remove roofs. I was unfortunate enough to have the roof of my home blow off during a particularly bad wind storm. In the nearby town, a fire raged across an old homestead, blowing out of control and erupting in huge bursts of flames, visible from miles away. The fire hit the main transformer station and caused a large power outage. At my own home, the metal roofing ripped off the trusses and landed in my parking spot, which was empty at the time. I had driven further up the mountain to view the massive blaze ripping through town. When I arrived home, a live wire was flailing dangerously in the wind, sparks shooting across the yard. The electricity had been wired into the house through the roof, so naturally it ripped off. A street over, another home was shredded by the same wind gust. All of this left me without electricity, water and sufficient heating in the middle of winter. Mailboxes were ripped off the posts and mail was lost to the drifted snow banks. Bills were lost and creditors unforgiving (despite a great credit record) of this natural disaster implemented extra charges and increased rates of those of us just trying to survive. I cancelled those accounts, by the way. FEMA gave a little support and combined with the insurance payout, it was still not enough to fix the house properly. Even with all of the chaos and lack of amenities, I didn't feel defeated or sad. Living rough is the Alaskan way of life, and a lot of us are prepared to do so at any time. 

This is probably why, every fall season, I tend to drop off the radar. I go without internet, travel and shopping and instead, focus on a long haul through winter. My husband picks up perishable food once a week and we venture out for a supply run every 4 or 5 months. Any other shopping is done online when necessary. My basement's cold storage is filled with the garden's harvest, windows are sealed, the property has been scoured for items which may become lost in the snow or blown over, room is created in the arctic entry for the surplus of winter items necessary for even a short walk, trees are trimmed or downed before their branches or the tree itself destroys property, outside water supplies are winterized (if you have any plumbing, that is) and the list goes on and on and on. 

Winter in Alaska is tough, but fall is brutal. The pressure to accomplish everything which makes it possible to sit and enjoy a crackling fire during a snowstorm can break a person. Compared to fall, winter can be sweet relief to an Alaskan. For some, it's like a vacation. There's nothing more you can do once the snow hits and temperatures plummet. Just sit back, listen to the wind howl, and let the flames of a cozy fire lull you into a contented sleep. Enjoy the break, because when spring arrives, it's time to prepare for the next winter. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014


On the trip back from Fairbanks this summer, I stopped in the tiny town of Nenana, the location of the popular "Nenana Ice Classic." I didn't stay for long, as I had spent more time in Fairbanks than originally planned. It's a pretty little place and my brief walk around made me want to stop again on my next trip. There is more to see than what I captured on camera and I wouldn't mind camping here, close to the Tanana River. This river is a lifeline for residents living in the remote areas around Nenana. In the summer, there are usually boats being filled with supplies for transport to villages or residences. This is also where the dyptheria serum arrived by train from Anchorage and was then rushed to Nome by a dogsled team, the only form of transportation available. The town now hosts the "Serum Run," which follows that original route, unlike the Iditarod, which starts in Anchorage and meanders up through the wilderness until reaching Nome.

Nenana is an hour south of Fairbanks, along the Parks Highway, and is worth a peek for visitors interested in Native history of Interior Alaska, the Iditarod, Interior transportation, northern lights (winter) or the Ice Classic. It is the only place where someone can buy tickets for the famous spring break-up competition at any time of year. As someone who enjoys the culture of my state, I found Nenana to be a valuable insight into the true lifestyle of real Alaskans. There are fewer and fewer towns, accessible by road, which still demonstrate the pioneer spirit. I'll harp on that later. For now, I hope you'll enjoy this short video. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Personal Ramblings

I suffer from what I believe is high functioning autism. I also live in a state which has very high rates of depression. I've had depression all my life and the last year was one of the worst. After periods of insomnia and pain, I began having severe panic attacks. Doctors' visits were expensive and it added to my stresses. After being on medication, I'm still having a few issues, though I had felt much better until now. I don't know if it was getting older, since I had a birthday recently, combined with some pains, but my stress level has been elevated and I'm going through a bit of a hard time.  Alaska's days are getting shorter and colder, so depression is setting in for many people. Things can be especially difficult in the fall, since there are so many preparations to be done for the winter. I usually turn to The Bible for calming myself down, or I distract myself in other ways, though little helps. I wouldn't normally want to talk about these problems, but maybe it will help me or others. I know I need to eat more healthy foods, though tasty vegetables and fruits are not so easy to get in Alaska. They are expensive and usually bland if they come from shipments. Fruits and vegetables are sent unripened and when they arrive, it's to a warehouse which gasses them to make them ripe. These are some of the downsides to life in Alaska. There are a lot of things which make life more difficult here, but there are also a lot of things which make it very enjoyable. As much as I love the state, I wouldn't mind spending a few months in Hawaii every year, but who wouldn't?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hatcher Pass Vol. 2- Gold Cord Hike

A popular trail in Hatcher Pass is the Gold Cord Lake Trail at Independence Mine.  It leads up to Gold Cord Lake and an historic cabin. It's a very busy trail in the summer and especially on weekends. The area can be skied in the winter by parking at the Independence Basin below Independence Mine. I hiked the area recently and enjoyed a beautiful, early fall day while admiring the alpine tundra of the Talkeetna Mountains. There were a lot of dogs on the trail and any dog owners wanting to hike with their pets need to make sure the dog is socialized with people and other dogs. They should be leashed, as they should also stay on the trail and off the delicate tundra and shouldn't be let to run around chasing the small animals trying to forage the mountain. I watched as one pet owner yelled for the dog to come back, while the dog shot off across the mountainside, paying no attention to its owner's calls. Dogs like these are the type that bring back an angry bear to their master, or some innocent hiker. Plus, you should be cleaning up after your pet, so you shouldn't let it wander more than leash distance from you at any time. One tiny dog was an exception, as it followed very closely to his master, and its size meant it wasn't heavy enough to damage a lot of the shallow-rooted tundra plants. In any case, I'll make an excuse for him because he was so darn cute and he let me pet him.

On another note, if anyone reading this ever hiked up to the Gold Cord Lake and found a nice camera tripod along the ridge, it was mine. I hope you've found it useful. I hiked back up to get it at 3 or 4 in the morning one summer, after realizing it was left behind, but it was gone by then. As I was hiking back down empty-handed, I apparently got too close to a fox den and was chased back down the mountain in a hurry, as the fox circled around me. It would have been a great photo opportunity, had I not been scrambling down a mountain in the middle of the night.