By Janelle Eklund
We continued vegetation surveys for NPS on the north side of the Wrangell Mountains, accessed by helicopter from the end of the Nabesna Road. Mary and I unloaded our gear from her car for a four day trip into the mountains. Upon first glance at the big pile the Pilot told us we had too much stuff and he’d have to do two trips. But after figuring the weight he managed to get it all in, eliminating a second trip.
We flew through mountains whose peaks spilled grey scree slopes. A family of sheep sat at home amongst steep craggy escarpments. Streams made ribbons criss-crossing themselves at the valley floor. We passed a lake as blue as a clear summer sky . Except for a bird's eye view, it was hidden deep in the mountains. Peak after peak and valley after valley we passed, until our destination at the Carl Creek valley came into view. We landed about 1,000 feet above the valley floor and there we made our base camp at the end of a long ridge line.
We arrived at about 4:00 pm and set up camp. We couldn't resist going for a hike to look for the orange native poppy, hoping to find out more about it. Two of them popped up out of the rocky slopes just above camp. One was in bloom and the other had a capsule with seeds, which Mary took for a sample to see if it’s a new species of poppy. The other poppies in the area are dressed in yellow and white. It’s amazing these plants grow from under thick rocky slopes, rooted in the soil concealed by rocks. On first glance your brain tells you nothing could grow here. But plants are determined and I suspect they bask in the heat from the rocks and huddle between them for protection from cold winds. These slopes are extremely steep - one must walk very slow and careful. The bottom of the slopes also house rocks and if you fell it would be a sad day.
Deep in the Wrangells we thought we were by ourselves until we saw eight horses grazing below along Carl Creek. They come up the valley from Chisana, a roadless settlement.
The weather is incredibly hot and must be in the 80's. A warm breeze played through our light shirts refreshing our overheated bodies. Pasta and pesto for dinner overlooking the grandeur of mountains, valleys, rivers, all dressed in brilliant summer colors. It doesn't get any better than this.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.