Tanalian Mountain Hike

July 2003…Imagine a place, in the middle of nowhere. Mountains toped with snow, and sweeping views in every direction. That is where I found myself, climbing steadily, as all of the worries of the world seemed to slip from my mind, and thankfully the mosquitoes followed suit, and were left in the shelter of the alders. The air was clear, the sky partly cloudy with plenty of blue showing through. A slight breeze brought smells of the tundra and pure summer bliss. Wild blueberries were plentiful, leaving a stain on my hands and lips from my frequent indulgences. It was a great way to spend a Saturday, and it was only beginning.

It was my first summer in Alaska, and although only two months along, it was already becoming a lot more than just an experience. Little did I know that that summer would be the starting point of a love of Alaska, and a great many more adventures and experiences in the Last Frontier. I had heard of the mountain, and seen its splendor every time I came into Port Alsworth, but had not had a chance to ascend its face and experience the stunning view from 3,957 ft. Although this is not a tall mountain by any means, the dramatic ascent from 250ft makes it a much grander feel, than what I was used to in Idaho, growing up at 3500 ft. The hike began just outside the town, which is three miles across the lake from the place that I was working and staying at. The mountain had a well used trail that went up through the trees, past the brush line, into the open tundra above. Although many people hike Tanalian, It was still an adventure for me.

The first part of the trip went through the Birch and Spruce, and passed quickly, and as I got about half way up, leaving the trees and bugs behind, some white splotches appeared scattered across the cliff face above me. Dall sheep, and a pretty good bunch by the looks of them. Quickly I crouched and worked my way up and around to the opposite side of the ridge that I was on, to conceal my movements. I stayed out of sight of the sheep, shimmying around shale slides and gullies, until I had nearly reached the top of the mountain. Peaking back over the rim to where the sheep had been, I can see the group, but only briefly before they disappear around the outer edge of the cliffs. I tried to figure why they had left so quickly. They couldn’t have seen me, I had been out of sight the whole time, and they were out of hearing range, what could it be?

After peaking a bit further over the edge I spot the culprit. A black bear, no wait, two black bears! Just below the sheep about 200 yards. The first bear was eating on a big white patch, obviously a small lamb or ewe, and the second bear was coming in for lunch. The first bear didn’t like that at all, and being that he was the bigger of the two, had no trouble running the second bear off. It was an amazing sight that I had never seen or heard of, a black bear eating a sheep. Either I had just missed the action, or the bear was cleaning up a wolf kill, but either way it was an amazing sight. All of this took place a half of a mile away, but through binoculars I was able to witness it first hand. After gazing for quite some time, I pressed on to the summit. The last bit was tricky, with loose rock and shale, but upon cresting that final ridge, all of the sweat and effort that was put into the hike was well worth the view from up top.

Standing upon the small patch of grass, deemed the top, it was hard to take it all in.

The sweeping view of the surrounding was awe inspiring, and it could not have been a better day to experience God’s Creation in all of its splendor. The hours passed in silence, as I ate lunch and just observed the massive expanse of space spread out below me. The only sounds that pierced the silence were the steady breeze, whistling through the rocks, a Piper super-cub taking off from the runway below, and a few bees buzzing their way along. Although my love for the outdoors had been sparked at as a child chasing butterflies with a net, this was a new stage in my personal development, and a new chapter in a new life of adventures in the great Alaska.

3 Responses to "Tanalian Mountain Hike"

  • Jannel Dougall says:
  • Karen Wright says:
  • Rhonda Chase says:
Leave a Comment

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.