Monday, September 11, 2006

Flattop '06 or..."Let's go the stupid way!"

Although there are thousands of stunning trails in the Chugach mountains, the North to AK clan always manages to find ourselves on the trail to Flattop, the most popular trail in the Anchorage bowl.

There are as many reasons I suppose to avoid Flattop as there are to hike it. One of the major cons of the trail is the huge amount of people that hike it, especially on a weekend.

The nicely laid steps that spoil erosion also probably upset die-hard hikers who would like their scenery unspoiled by man. The spray-painted dots that helpfully point out the "trail" through the rock climb to the top takes some of the danger out of the mad scramble. On the other hand, here's a hike that's hard because it's steep, easily followed, and is so darn accessible it's impossible to pass up on a beautiful autumn day.
Many families will take beautiful autumn days like this and go pick blueberries, which is one of the reasons the parking lot was so full. Although I saw some really great-looking blueberries, it seemed to me that the ones I tried yesterday were pretty watery.
So, while lots of people spent their time hunched down harvesting, looked at the scenery.

We spent a lot of time up at the top, playing around. Galileo was looking for vermin and also had a huge romp with a sled dog all over the mountaintop. After a half hour or so, the clouds rolled in. If you've never actually had a cloud roll over you, it's quite an experience:

About that time, we decided to go back down the mountain. This is where the dangerous/interesting part of the day started.

It all started with a innocent "Hey, let's go down the OTHER way this time". Remembering seeing people come down the "other" way last time, I mentioned that the other trail was a sheer rock face full of scree and gravel. The disappointment was beginning to show in my wonderful husband's face. Safety girl was again spoiling the adventure. "Don't worry", he said, "we had gone down this way before, it was easy".

We hadn't. Look at below and guess how many things are wrong with this picture:There are a few problems with the unmaintained old flattop trail, beginning with the fact that there is no trail. That gap of gravel between the scree and grass is just slightly less loose gravel. This is why people built the lovely trail with the nice stairs that everyone in their right mind was taking down to the parking lot. While Frank and Galileo skeedaddled ahead on the trail, I tenderly held my camera while scooting down a scree chute on my rear thinking about how I needed to keep my lens pointed upward in case I plummeted down the mountain so I didn't break the camera. Frank was shouting word of encouragement like "You look cute!", I was shouting very unpleasant things back that I will not mention.

Despite our collective brush with death, there were three good things about taking that trail:
1) The colors were more vibrant on that side of the mountain:

2) I got this picture of Frank finding out the trail was not so easy:

3) We went by the "I love Alaska" tree, coming as a Christmas card near you in a few months:

So looking back after making it to civilization with all arms, legs, shins, and cameras accounted for, in classic "Cash Peters" style...would I go the stupid way again? Absolutely not! Am I glad Frank coaxed me into doing it? Well...I'm glad we made it down...once :)

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