What had begun as a beautiful Sunday morning and early afternoon turned to clouds and drizzle by the late afternoon and evening. The closer we got to the Lion’s Head trailhead, the greyer and rainier it became, but we had coats with us and set out hiking in the drizzle.
An online hiking article states that the trail is 1 1/2 miles long, and it definitely is a good scramble, steep, narrow, and slick in the rain. Jenny and my Uncle Dan both are skeptical of the 1 1/2 miles and think it has to be shorter – I’m not. Though, it didn’t feel nearly as long coming back down!
Most of the trail does indeed go straight up, with a few too-short switchbacks and some rocky climbs. The rain had made the trail a muddy mess and the footing somewhat treacherous in places. Lots of easy handholds are to be had, however. About half of the distance is in forest growth, though there are open areas boasting beautiful views of the Matanuska Valley. The rain and clouds and mist gave the landscape a moody, surreal atmosphere at times, with the river and the Glen Highway gleaming dully in the distance, beneath towering clouds and strange sunlight. The scramble includes a stretch of boulder field, which was easy to navigate and was actually a nice break from the raw, muddy scramble. The trail begins to level out towards the top, with a pretty gentle grade over the ridge to the actual peak. Once again, I couldn’t help but exclaim over the strange terrain, with the soft and spongy moss covering pretty much everything in thick, tangled mats. Large lichens added weird pattern and texture. Tiny flowers poked up among the fronds of moss, delicate and seemingly vulnerable, and little ferns grew impossibly in the boulder field. How amazing, that God has equipped these plants with fortitude and tenacity to be able to grow and flourish in such harsh climates. There were glorious views once we reached the top, and the sun began to show itself. There must have been some electrical activity in the storm, since our hair was standing up on end at the peak, in spite of being wet from the rain. Hoards of mosquitoes were also waiting for us, as well as a number of swallows dipping and diving over the cliffs, and beautiful clusters of wildflowers springing up seemingly from the rock itself. The Matanuska Glacier snaked back out of sight, hidden by mountains and mist. A swampy area dotted with little lakes sprawled between us and the glacier. The mountains along the Matanuska Valley were blue with rain, losing themselves in the distance. Breathtaking, truly. We hiked back down the trail, bug-bitten, rain-wet, sweaty, and muddy. What a joy, to be able to spend God’s Day in His glorious Creation, marveling at His handiwork, His Creative powers in having shaped and formed this world we live in!
On a rainy, dreary day, the greenhouse really is a wonderful place to be. Comfortably warm inside, with fresh, cool air from the rainy outdoors. Rain plinking on the roof. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last two weeks, and the greenhouse happened to be in need of a spring cleaning. Spent a good part of yesterday afternoon organizing pots, flower tags, gardening tools, fertilizers…and drinking tea and listening to Adventures in Odyssey.
I’ve always thought gardening was a nice idea, and I’ve had a few gardening projects that were successful – mostly because they required no effort. Such as the 12-foot tall sunflowers and the moonflower vines that took over our porch. But I’ve always lived in places where heat and/or humidity were real barriers to my interest in that art and science. I can’t say I enjoy gardening when temps are in the 80s and 90s, and I’m sweating and tired and a little grouchy after pulling two weeds! But being able to spend hours in the garden or greenhouse, working with my hands, getting dirty and having dirt under my fingernails, having mud on my jeans, working hard and being appropriately tired, sweating because of the work, not because of the heat, having sore muscles and a wakened mind – that is hard to beat. A lovely afternoon.
When Jenny and I headed out on the fourwheeler at 9pm last night, we had kind of expected a more leisurely spin. I’d never done any fourwheeling, so anything would have been fun for me! The trails we intended to ride on were reported to be in good condition and to have been recently repaired, to some extent. A fifteen minute drive got us to the old Glen Highway, and another ten minutes got us out into the real off-roading.The area was beautiful. The landscape, a boggy tangle of spongy moss and lichen and slender spruce, sprawled to the mountains, the tops of which were buried in clouds. The trail became more mountainous as we climbed towards the pass, crossing a few streams, taking alternate routes around the largest puddles, some of which were deceptively deep – we found out the hard way. On a number of occasions, we almost ended up stuck, which at a minimum would have been very embarrassing. A couple of the bad spots almost made us turn around, but then the road would get better so we’d keep on trucking! It was a gorgeous evening. Why turn around?
We were never quite deterred until we got to a particularly steep spot requiring some tricky maneuvering. I hopped off to make the maneuvering easier for Jenny, and as I did, I got a whiff of that unmistakable smell of something big definitely dead. I mean, it wasn’t just a dead rabbit close by. “Jenny, do you smell that?” I asked uneasily, as the stench got stronger, at the time that she was processing the same thing. We both had the “Let’s turn around now” feeling, and did so as quickly as she could get the fourwheeler turned around on the muddy slope. We had a tense couple of minutes there on the slick, steep, rutted slope, with pretty thick brush and uneven terrain on either side of us, and poor visibility as a result. The turn around was challenging enough, but if we’d gone on any further, Jenny said we wouldn’t have been able to turn around until we reached the top of the trail. With a persistent creepy feeling, we headed back down the trail. That stench sticks with you, particularly when there’s a good chance the stench was from a grizzly cache. We would have felt at least a little better if we had brought a bigger gun.
I wasn’t quite able to shake the creepy feeling until we got back home at 11pm and warmed up with some hot tea. Nothing like that to get your heart pumping!
Happy first day of summer! Here in Glacierview, AK, we are enjoying the last bit of daylight at midnight – We’ll have 19 hours and 21 minutes of daylight today! Honestly, it is the light that is the biggest adjustment for me up here. Sleeping really isn’t an issue, since I can hang a blanket over the window, but energy is the issue! At home, I’d be tired by 11:00pm, particularly if I had just gone on a hike and had a busy day (both of which I did today!), but when it is daylight outside, the energy just doesn’t turn off. The daylight really has wreaked havoc on my sleep, since I’ve been staying up a lot later, and then a few mornings ago I was wide awake at 4:30am! I love it.After dinner this evening, probably around 8:00 or a little later, Jenny and I climbed up to Big Rock, which overlooks the whole valley, with the Matanuska River snaking its way along way below, and the houses and Victory Bible Camp scattered like little models here and there in the trees. We left home in a slight rain, and enjoyed a rainbow on the way to the top, but once we were at Big Rock, it cleared up a bit, and the sun even came out briefly. The clouds were wisping over the mountaintops, and the Matanuska Glacier could be seen further east. What a day. So much to marvel at.
It doesn’t get much better than sitting on the deck in the evening eating a quiet dinner, with Amulet Peak and the Chugach Range towering – and I mean towering – into the sky across the river, clouds tangling in the valleys, watching the play of sunlight. What a sight. The first two days this week were rainy and cloudy, and only occasionally could I see the tip top of Amulet peaking through a tear in the clouds. But the past couple of days, the view has been a wonderful sight. While out in the garden, the mountains are visible across the river, and Victory Peak up behind us, and even when walking along the road, Amulet can be glimpsed through breaks in the trees. The mountains are so…big.
There is so much sunlight. Almost too much. The wildflowers thrive in the almost-24-hour daylight and the moist climate. The foliage is thick and lush. The creeks are muddy and swift. Aunt Sandy and I have spent a lot of time out in her gardens, and one of my particular projects was cleaning up her large raised garden bed. How fun to get it looking neat and tidy, clearing out the old, dead foliage, getting the weeds and moss pulled and scraped off the soil, applying lime to keep the moss at bay, and spreading a new layer of rich, black compost on top! I have to say, gardening is a lot more pleasant in temperatures of 60-70 degrees, rather than in temperatures of 80-100 degrees. Golden retriever Kaiah has been a delightful, albeit rather ditzy, buddy to have around, and she is a good company-keeper. She tags along when I run down the road to take something to the guest cabins, or get the mail, or when I’m in the garden. Everything is a game to her. Basically she’s an 8-year-old puppy. And somehow she thinks she can challenge a moose and not get put in her place! I was at the house by myself two nights ago and heard her barking ferociously, so I ran to the front window, and there she was, practically underneath an unhappy moose! So I ran to the front door and shouted at her, and she came, trembling and scared, but somehow it doesn’t keep her from doing it the next time.
A few nights ago after dinner, Uncle Dan and I went to a job site of his, which overlooks the Matanuska Glacier. Another almost overwhelming sight. So much ice, sprawling through the valley and out of sight between mountains. And yet it looks minuscule, unimportant next to the mountains. Mountains are perspective-givers. What a wonderful Creator God, to have spoken this world into existence! From the beauty of landscape, to the delicate intricacies of flowers, to the special bonds He lets us enjoy with His animal creatures, to the purpose and meaning of honest work, He has blessed us so richly, to be able to enjoy all of this, and to try to process all of it. God, help us not to take it for granted, but to give glory to You!
“Hey, Aunt Sandy – what do I do if I see a moose?” I was getting ready to take the mail down the road past the sawmill to the mailbox in a light drizzle. “Give it its space,” she said. “And get behind a tree?” I asked. These are important questions when you come from a region without moose.
I headed out, raincoat-clad, camera in hand, into the cool moist of a rainy Alaskan day. Muddy road, dripping trees, everything drenched – perfection. I got down to the sawmill, and on the far side was the road and the mailboxes. Beyond the mailboxes I saw a large shape go running by. A moose. I stopped, waiting to see what the critter would do, and sure enough he crossed the road into the sawmill yard. He saw me, and looked at me as he browsed from the trees. I stayed over in the sawmill for a few minutes, watching him to see where he’d go, and finally I took a roundabout way to the road to get to the mailboxes. He was still there when I came back. For probably anyone who lives in this area, the encounter would have been nothing – but it was a pleasant adrenaline rush for me! On my way back to the house, I was thrilled to find a ladyslipper orchid, which I’ve never seen other than in books. The rain makes everything look so alive and rich. Bluebells were spangled with raindrops, some of them open and wide awake, others still taking their time to bloom. It has rained all day today, and it rained more or less all day yesterday as well. Heavy clouds sit over the mountains around us, enveloping us, but every once in awhile, the fog and clouds will lift, enough that we can see the fresh snow on Victory Peak above us, or the etched slopes of Amulet Peak across the valley, though we can’t quite see the top of Amulet because of the cloud cover.
It is nice to have a few quiet days after the craziness of last week. But tomorrow the rain is supposed to let up, and the gardening will begin! Looking forward to a little sunshine!