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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sunday outing in Anchorage

Lots of people hiking and skiing on the trail, but no one other than me went more than halfway up the valley

After the anthropology conference in Anchorage ended I had a day to kill before I came home.  When I first booked my tickets the plan had been for Zoya and the kids to join me after the conference and participate in the Tour of Anchorage ski race.  However, the race got cancelled, and so many people had come to Anchorage for the Iditarod start that I found it impossible to change my ticket.

I was stuck in snowless Anchorage - or so I thought.

Funnily enough Anchorage DID have great groomed ski trails right in town until Friday.  During the conference I went out to Hillside every afternoon and found freshly groomed skate ski tracks.  And then Thursday night it rained, and rained, and even Hillside became a sheet of ice.  The Anchorage bowl had finally lost its snow (although I gather the icy Hillside trails were been groomed back into skate skiing corduroy on Monday).

So I tried Glen Alps - a State Park trailhead a short drive above Hillside 2700 feet up into the Chugach range. And the rain had fallen as snow up there.  It was like a return to winter.  Fluffy powder on spruce trees, glinting ice crystals, and ptarmigan tracks on top of the snow.

To kill time on Sunday I decided to go back as far up the valley behind Glen Alps as I could.  The parking lot was packed and the trail up valley reminded me of the trail up the mountain to Dawson in the 1898 Gold Rush - a black line of traffic.  Fat bikes, hikers with strollers, cross country skiiers, dogs on leashes - lots and lots of dogs.  All the traffic had packed down the snow and I flew up valley in my cross country skiis.

But about halfway up the valley all traffic petered out.  No one had gone more than halfway and I had to use my skate skiis like classic skiis to bust trail the rest of the way.  Since I had no grip wax on my skiis I mostly pushed with my poles as I slowly climbed to the back of the valley.  I was amazed to find a place so remote so close to downtown Anchorage.  I was also amazed that I was the only person who went back there on a calm, sunny, weekend day.

The return was slightly downhill and I glided back in my broken trail to where all the people were on the hard-packed trail.


My skate skiis were perfect at the start where the trail was beaten in

It's been windy! 

My skate skiis were NOT good for breaking trail beyond the well-travelled trail section

The reflected light in the shadows was pretty spectacular

View back to where I started on the horizon just below the cloud

View of the bowl at the head of the valley

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