Spring and Summer Updates 2022

Stream on the Canwell Glacier
Looking over a glacial stream on the Canwell Glacier on one of my many hikes over the last month

I have been a bad writer. I am sorry. No posts in a month! I’ve been doing things, I promise. I’ve done many weekend hikes around the Alaska interior and have been taking A LOT of video. I also apologize for the use of caps lock, but it really needed to be emphasized.

As many of you know, I’ve been working on an online Alaska hiking guide for about two years. Well, I have been wanting to supplement it with video to show a bit more about the areas and give a bit more insight into what the hiking and terrain are like. So, this spring I dove in and just started recording on my hikes.

Wildflowers and the Summit Trail

So, the last time I wrote here, I had just started my vlog with an intro at Angel Rocks, and spent some time birding and hiking and climbing with our youth climbing team. The week after our trip with the climbing team to Granite Tors, I spent an evening wandering the hillsides at Wickersham Dome looking for wildflowers. I didn’t find anything new for my Alaska Wildflower Guide, but it was a gorgeous evening and the bugs weren’t out in force quite yet.

Looking at Wickersham Dome on a perfect evening from a little lookout just off the main trail
Woolly lousewort along the Summit Trail near Wickersham Dome

How’d I Get To The Windchimes

The following day, I was set on finding more wildflower photos but didn’t have much of a plan. Kind of on a whim, I drove out to the Mt. Prindle campground at Nome Creek and started hiking out the Nome Creek Trail. It’s hard to describe how perfect the weather was.

Evening scenery along the Nome Creek Trail in the White Mountain National Recreation Area, Alaska | Purchase Prints

The temps were in the low 70s, there was enough wind to completely keep the bugs away, but not super gusty, there were a few snowfields, but for the most part, the trail was relatively dry (for the Nome Creek Trail), and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. So, I just kept walking. And walking. All the way to the Windchimes on Mt. Prindle.

The giant granite towers known as the windchimes on a ridge on the shoulder of Mt. Prindle | Purchase Print

This little impromptu hike suddenly became a nearly 17-mile adventure and I had little water on me. And the Clif bars I thought I had in my pack were actually eaten the night before. I was thirsty, hungry, and tired at the windchimes, so decided to turn back here rather than continue another mile and a half to the summit. However, I did get lots of video from the hike, just enough for my second vlog post!

I think this was my first fully blue sky day in this area, which helped make the photos much more stunning! You can find the rest of my photos from the day here: June 5, 2022, at Mt. Prindle

Granite Tors Redux

It took a few days for my legs to recover, and finally, after a year of pain and an autumn ankle surgery, Cat joined me on the trail again. This time we attempted the Granite Tors Loop, (after the failed backpacking attempt a few weeks earlier because of snow conditions). Unfortunately, this was also the day that the wildfire smoke hit the Fairbanks area. Luckily, it wasn’t too smelly, but it did cast a pretty strong haze in the air.

Wildfire haze at the Granite Torsmore photos from the day
More smoky photos at the Granite Torsmore photos from the day

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We managed to complete the loop just two weeks after my snowed-out experience. Cat’s ankle only gave some moderate pain on the hike (although we were both really sore by the end). Also, I managed to get enough footage to make my third hiking vlog!

Summer of Fires

The air quality in Fairbanks remained bad. Actually, as I write this a month later, it still is.

Time to digress. About the wildfires. I’m writing this on July 7, 2022, for about the last month we have had terrible air in Fairbanks. It’s not recommended to do anything outside. This is absolutely putting a damper on summer plans. For everyone. There have already been evacuations in the Clear and Anderson areas, as well as northwest of us near Minto Lakes. Now the Middle Tanana Complex fire is growing near Delta Junction and may spur more evacuations. We continue to have low humidity and hardly any measurable precipitation in the forecast. We have scattered thunderstorms in the forecast most days, but it’s usually just a bunch of lightning with a quick shower. Then, more fires.

Screen capture from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center and Wildland Fire Dashboard on July 7, 2022 – See the Current Conditions Here

It absolutely doesn’t help that the temperatures have been in the 80s for the majority of the last month. I’ve lived in Alaska for 12 years, this year I broke down and bought an air conditioner, and it’s the first time I’ve felt I needed one. It cools off into the 60s or sometimes 50s at night, but we can’t open the windows because of the smoke.

Also, as I’m writing this, new evacuations have been put out for Clear:

I’ve been seeing some terrifying videos and photos on Twitter.

Table Top Mountain Trail

Back to the main story. The following weekend I headed out to the Nome Creek area again, this time to get some footage from the Table Top Mountain Trail. There were a few clouds, but only a slight haze from the wildfires. Actually, it turned out to be another gorgeous day in the White Mountains!

Table Top Mountain from the spur trail to the summit
View from the summit with some crepuscular rays
Narcissus anemone flowers along the Table Top Mountain Trailmore photos from the day

I only saw a couple of other people out on the trail, but a large group was leaving as I pulled into the parking area. There was a super fun snowfield to slide down below the spur trail that leads to the summit of Table Top. And I got some more video!

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McManus Mountain

A few days later, Cat came down with COVID, again. This time she had symptoms with it too. Not severe, but bad aches and pains, chills, cough, and a high fever. I am both vaccinated and boosted, had no sign of illness, and continued to test negative. Also, I work with loads of children during the week, so I have a feeling my immune system is staying fairly robust. To be safe, I took a few days off of work so as not to potentially expose anyone there, and I went for a good long day hike on McManus Mountain in the White Mountain National Recreation Area.

The day started out perfect!

A small rock outcropping near the Pinnell Mountain Trail, looking at Pinnell Mountain. Taken on the way to McManus Mountain.
Rolling hills and tundra on the way up McManus
On the summit of McManus Mountainmore photos from the day

Another day of good temperatures. And there was enough wind to keep the bugs away. Until there wasn’t. And then there wasn’t any wind. For the entire descent. And then I had the worst mosquito+black fly experience of my life. {speaking in the best infomercial accent} But, don’t just take my word for it, watch the video!

Canwell Glacier

Three days later I was on the Canwell Glacier. I wanted to visit a few caves I had been to in the past and see if I could find some new ones, and just hike up glacier as far as conditions, time, and energy allowed. I saw some fantastic sights, but for the first time ever (in 8 years of visiting this glacier) there was too much meltwater to safely cross a stream. Record snowfall levels in addition to weeks of hot weather have created quite a scene with some of these glacial streams and channels. The glacier cave was also on the verge of collapse, so undoubtedly I got the last photos and videos I’ll ever take of that gorgeous ice.

Remains of a glacier cave in the Canwell Glacier moraine
A rainbow appears near McCallum Peak over the Canwell Glacier
Water flows under a small ice arch in a water channel in the Canwell Glacier | Purchase Print
A small stream falls into the water channel | Purchase Print
Glacial ice glowing from inside the cave | Purchase Print

Here is the full photo gallery from the day: Photos June 27, 2022

It was another perfect day. This part of the Alaska Range was mostly smoke-free at the time as well, so it was great to get away from it for the day. As it turns out, my feet were getting quite sore on the return, so it’s probably a good thing I didn’t go much further. The moraine was very rough going, mainly because the heat made for a lot of deep mud. I had to work for a lot of my steps! I highly recommend you check out the video!

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Gulkana Glacier Bust

Our latest adventure took us to the Gulkana Glacier. Cat and I set out to go explore the Gabriel Icefall some more, but similar to the last trip, got blocked by meltwater. It was another very hot day in the 80s. It was the first time in 8 years of coming here I felt it was unsafe to cross the channel to get onto the glacier. We probably could have made it across ok, but it would be more difficult to return the other way. Not to mention, it would be later in the day when melt tends to be stronger, so it may have risen even more after we were across. I still got some pretty photos, and have done video from the area already. I’ll just need to wait for a cooler day to finish up my video guide.

The Gabriel Icefall from below the terminal moraine
This was the first time I’ve seen moss campion with just a single flower

Back to the Future

And now you’re all caught up with the last month or so. I have tons of plans for the rest of the summer but may need to change many of them due to smoke conditions. I’ll do my best to write more frequently to avoid these huge posts! My fingers are crossed for rain soon. And geeze, as I’m writing this two water bombers just flew directly over the house. Apparently, there is a new fire from yesterday that is only about 20 miles from our home. That is the exact direction the planes came from and according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Wildland Fire Dashboard, there are multiple planes, helicopters, and ground crew responding to it. It’s one of those years to have a plan to leave in a hurry if need be.


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