By Janelle Eklund
I obviously didn't pick the right spot for the tent. I woke with a stiff neck from a lumpy bed. First thing I did after I got up was find a flatter spot and move the tent. I'm not sure if it was the lumpy bed or the walk we took last night that triggered vivid dreams of boulder avalanches. The mountains were breaking apart and huge boulders tumbled down toward us. We kept moving to avoid them. One just missed someone.
The weather is still mostly clear and beautiful. Some clouds came in last night and it looked like we’d get a bit of rain but they went on their merry way. Just a few scattered clouds all day and almost clear tonight.
Today we hiked up the slope behind camp to about 1,400'. It was slow going which was fine with me. Mary looked at different species of plants on the way up. It was nice to go a little way, stop for a bit, and then go a little further. When we got to our destination we had a bite of lunch enjoying the magnificent view. After lunch we tackled the first steep scree field to look for the elusive orange poppy. Mary had been here before so the poppies had been mapped. Unfortunately for us this beauty of a flower refused to grow toward the top of the ridge where it was not so steep. They like being a third of the way down the unstable scree slope, happily living with the rocks, using their heat energy to survive. We found a good population of them but a lot of the capsules had been chewed on by something. Mary took lots of seed samples in hopes of getting some good ones to examine. After getting samples by balancing on the steep slope I went back up the hill where we left our packs and took a siesta in the sun. Mary tagged some of the poppies and took a GPS reading, which took almost an hour. It felt good to nestle down with the grass, the slope and the sun. The richness and warmth was lulling and peaceful.
We followed the ridge line up and then back down toward camp. As we meandered through this vast kaleidoscope we encountered another population of orange poppy halfway back to camp. Again, something was hungry and did a good job of chewing on the capsules. We got some samples anyway.
Back at camp Mary made curry couscous with carrots and cauliflower, which was very tasty. She pressed some of the other plants she collected and keyed them out. A beautiful night in the vast mountain peaked valley. The scene out our camp window frames distant white peaks skirted by closer peaks dressed for summer, cascading into a valley floor where the mountains spill a gleaming ribbon of a river. A half moon decorates the sky above. The sound of the river lulls the still sunlit night. A ground squirrel tells me it’s time to retire to the tent so he can retreat to his nearby house.
All is well and good. Peace envelopes the land.
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.