Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Great gifts

Yesterday it was my birthday(48).
I left at 7 am to go into the mountain range of Stony Creek. Same way; bike to gravel pit, hike up 'nipple mountain'. Last week I worked on the trail a little bit, it made a difference. It's only marked for 1km. From there I would like the make a more direct line to 'pretty pond', but today I follow the old route as it is easy to find, it goes over rock slabs in the forest, and it is familiar. Although I have to go through thick forest to get from the rocks, through a depression over another ridge to get to the pond. Pretty pond has more grass again, only two circles of water. From 'pretty pond' to the foot of the mountain went easy today, I should mark it soon. Also the climb up the mountain went well. Instead of getting stuck in the Alders, I found rock slides to climb up. On the bottom of one I found a den , marked by lots of droppings, possibly Porcupine. The Spruce trees here are gigantic. I found a standing dead one, 1 meter diameter. The life ones, the trunks are hard to see because of the branches.

At 9.15 am I reach the top! The distance traveled, roughly 5 km, elevation gain 1500 feet (the maps still measure elevation in feet). From here the next 1.5 km up and down, staying at 4000/4200 feet. Around here that is around the tree line, which means buck brush, but here not very high. I worry a little bit about the last dip I have to go through, it is very wide and I know there to be blue berry bushes. On my way up I snacked on the occasional ripe berry. You see, I am a little apprehensive, bears like berries too. As I sit on a rock overlooking the berry valley. I sing a song, loudly (which is a nice thing to do).

Lo and behold, no bear, but a bull moose, pops up and runs away, It is running away, eventually out of sight, down over a ridge south east. I am going up and north east, and feel it safe for me to continue. Moose are territorial and can be dangerous too. As I am far away enough, it is an awesome sight to see, this dark shining animal, with a big rack (antlers).

The berries up here are not ripe yet. And around 10.15 I reach high ground,4500 feet. This is where I love it very much. Just me and the rock. The mountain is polished off by the glacier and low plants cover the mountain. Here and there an erratic, the biggest one here with a diameter of 5 meters, I practice my rock climbing skills.
The weather is beautiful! I take the time to look at all the flowers, birds, and try to spot the abundant ground squirrels(gophers), but they shriek and are gone before I get a good look.
I am aiming for the next mountain over, and taking a direct route, leaving the 'fire tower ridge' to my right. The walking on the side hill is harder, but I am very happy I did it, as I cross many creek beds and they harbor the most beautiful flowers (see last post).

At noon I reach the valley in front of the next mountain. Its a giant. It is 5800 feet high, on three sides it rises up steeply for 2000 feet. I am looking at the smallest fourth side for a climb. But as it is noon already ,it has to wait for another day. I drop down to explore the rushing, creek. It is a most wonderful place, quite open, the creek bed (gravel), approximately 30feet wide, where as the creek on average 4 feet wide, there is still snow patches. There's high rock walls, and the meandering creek with rapids, one being a waterfall 0.75 meter high. Little pools. Lovely.

I don't feel comfortable to have my lunch here and go for the ridge I had left to my right. I come close to the little .....Now what are they called? Lakes or ponds, they are the origin of the creek. The ridge is steep on this side, and I enjoy the climb up. Half way up at 1.30 pm, I have my lunch, overlooking this beautiful land.
I wasn't far from the top. And lay down in the sun, flies and bees zooming around me. I follow the ridge towards the fire tower. Like most days this summer the sky is full of clouds and I don't expect to look into the St. Elias Range. But for the second time today; Lo and behold, there is a surprise, above the mountain east of Haines Jct. I see the Kluane range and above that; one single white peak! Small though, as the distance to the great mountains is 120 km. As you see I did get a photo from the first surprise, but it happens to be that the batteries of the camera ran out. No surprise; I have to come back another day.

One more gift awaits me; An old caribou antler!(where I saw the moose).


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