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Day 76: Forecast calls for…mud (and some amazing views)

August 14, 2010 14 comments

Location: Palmer, AK

Miles Driven: 170

Total Miles: 17,726

James had the day off, and had agreed to go hike a nearby mountain, Mount Marathon.  I met him at his house in the morning, and a few hours later we were on our way.  Although it was another overcast day, the forecast did not call for rain (at least not in the late morning when we were going to hike).  We were looking forward to a strenuous hike which promised some good views both along the way and at the peak. Also, James had completed the hike once before, so it was good to go with someone familiar with the route to the top (there were no markers or clearly-defined trails, like other hikes I’ve been on).

Mount Marathon, 3000 feet in height

I did not take a lot of photos on the way up, as I needed both hands to help me along the way.  The muddy paths were slick, and made worse by rain that began to fall when we were about 1/4 of the way up.  A couple times I wouldgain 10 feet of ground or so, just to quickly lose that same ground by sliding back to where I started.  It was, indeed, a muddy (and slow) affair.  James had a much easier go at it – he credits that to a strong equipoise. 

But our spirits remained high and we wanted to see how far we could make it, hoping the slick paths wouldn’t deter our route to the top.  There were some great views of Seward and Resurrection Bay not far into the hike, also.

Eventually the slick, muddy, forested paths give way to gravel (note the gray section at the top of the mountain).  The gravel was a bit easier to move around on; however, the climb became significantly steeper in this section. 

The top looks deceptively close, but trust me, it was not

There was still about another hour to the top once we reached the gravel section.  It was tough, but worth it when we arrived at the peak of Mount Marathon.

A little muddy and soaked, but happy to be at the top

James at the peak. Noticeably less muddy and drier than me

Great to hang out at the top and take in the views.

Can you believe those mountains??

The weather at the top was getting a bit cold, compounded by my wet clothes.  It was time to head down.  The route down was a bit tricky, but fun.  It’s gravelly most of the way, and steep, so James likened it to slalom skiing skiing, but just in boots – run a bit, slide on your feet, run a bit, slide on your feet, etc.  Fairly challenging, but less so than going up.  And before you know it, you’re halfway down the mountain.

Later the path cut through a long stream, and we encountered more muddy paths.  It was a veritable “slip N slide”, and I had never gotten that muddy in my life.  But I was able to keep on the path for the most part, and it wasn’t long before we returned to James’ truck.  It was about two hours to the top of the mountain, and I think about 50 minutes down.

Every Fourth of July in Seward, a race is held here at the mountain.  I cannot even fathom how people run up and down (well, I kind of understand the down part, now) this mountain, with or without slick paths.  Congrats to Megan who has run it before.  I still think it is somewhat insane.

Arrived back at James’ place a soaking mess.  James kindly let me shower and use his washer and dryer, but first we needed to document the price I paid in this climb:

Look on the back left of the shorts. There is a dry patch! How that occurred is beyond me

Very much worth it.

I was able to get everything (including myself) cleaned up, and just before 5PM I was on the road, heading out of Seward.  My route was north to the city of Palmer where Megan’s sister, Susan, lives.  Susan wasn’t planning on being home, but kindly offered me the house for as long as I needed it.  Very generous.  While here, I will keep an eye on her dog, a friendly Springer Spaniel named Vegas.  Susan started to defrost some halibut for me, as well.  Once again in Alaska, I had a great dinner.

This trip to Palmer marks the near-end of my stay in Alaska.  After another night or two here, I head east, to eventually link up again with the Alaska Highway and work my way back into Canada.  I just realized that means I have shifted into phase four of this trip – the “indirect” journey home.  It will still be a long while before I am back in NY (especially after you understand the route I’ll take), but it’s another milestone, and the last major one on this trip.  Kind of sad, but still thrilling to know how far I’ve made it, the spectacular places I’ve been, and the wonderful people I’ve met up with along the way.

joe