Upper Chena Dome Flora

Upper Chena Dome Flora
Looking along the gentle ridge along the Upper Chena Dome Trail at about mile-4

I’m again behind on my writing. It’s been a busy week, and it will be a busy weekend, so I’ll make this one quick.

Last Friday, June 7, I hiked the first four miles of the Upper Chena Dome Trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area. The weekend forecast was for hot weather (mid-80s F on Saturday and Sunday), so I wanted to get a decent hike in before the heat set in.

I had partly cloudy skies and a bit warmer than the forecasted 69°F, but it wasn’t bad. A consistent breeze helped keep me cool.

When I arrived, the trailhead was mostly empty. A couple was getting ready to head up Angel Creek on their ATVs, and two other cars were in the lot. The trail was completely dry the whole way, so I never got my shoes wet or muddy.

Despite it being a relatively short hike, about 4 miles one-way, the elevation gain is steady, gaining 3200 feet in about 3.5 of those 4 miles. There wasn’t much diversity in flora until I started nearing the alpine zone. Down in the valley, the only flowers blooming were Labrador tea (Rhododendron tomentosum) and various flowers of berry subshrubs.

The flowers of Labrador tea (Rhododendron tomentosum)
The small, bell-shaped flowers of the bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginiosum)

Immediately below the treeline, the ground cover was greener, and the forest floor was littered with arctic lupines (Lupinus arcticus).

Arctic lupine (Lupinus arcticus)

The trail becomes much rockier at the tree line, with some rock outcroppings. The terrain becomes gravelly, and the views are outstanding.



The view immediately above the treeline. I sat down my bag down here and photographed eight different species of flowers within five feet of my pack! (photos below)
Alpine azalea (Kalmia procumbens)
Blackish oxytrope (Oxytropis nigrescens)
Eightpetal mountain avens (Dryas octopetala)
The female flowers of Fries’ pussytoes (Antennaria friesiana)
Narcissus anemone (Anemone narcissiflora)
I’m about 90% certain this is Bigelow’s sedge (Carex bigelowii). It is for sure one of the true sedges (genus Carex).
Arctic stitchwort or arctic sandwort (Minuartia arctica)
Female catkins of arctic willow (Salix arctica)

There were possibly numerous species of other dwarf willows, which I haven’t gotten around to editing photos or identifying.

So far, all species are incredibly common, and I’ve seen them in many other areas I hiked earlier this spring. As I pressed on, I encountered a few rarer species, including two I had not yet seen.

The first new species for me – Apetalous catchfly (Silene uralensis ssp. uralensis)
Apetalous catchfly (Silene uralensis ssp. uralensis)
Arctic lupines and eightpetal mountain avens in the tundra
The scenery up here was incredible!
Bluff cinquefoil in the rock outcroppings (Potentilla arenosa)
Pincushion plant (Diapensia obovata)
Porcupine River thimbleweed (Pulsatilla multiceps)

That about wraps up the species that bloomed last week on this part of the trail. I didn’t include a few others because they weren’t flowering yet. This was definitely a reminder to spend some time looking down. Many of these species would have very easily been missed if I hadn’t taken my time to wander the tundra slowly. Some of them I only saw when I knelt down to photograph a different flower.

That’s all for now. Hopefully, I’ll have some more photos to share over the next few days. As I said earlier, it was a busy week with work, but I have found a few new species near the house and the gym I’m currently writing articles on. Enjoy a few more landscapes from the Upper Chena Dome Trail!

Looking down the gentle ridge. Angel Rocks is visible center-left on the other side of the Chena River Valley
Incredible blue skies!
The Alaska Range visible on the horizon
Burly trees

More Trip Reports

Slideshow – June 7, 2024

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