Saturday drive up the Steese to the White Mountains

Posted by lwpetersen | June 16, 2013 | travel alaska

Kate and I haven’t had a lot of time together this summer. Actually, we haven’t had a lot of time together this year. Our schedules are very different, especially the summer schedules when she ends up working until 1,2,3, or 5 in the morning and I keep leaving to go work on Black Rapids for weeks at a time. Then there was her class in Juneau, yada, yada, yada . . . so we took Saturday. Waking up at 1 in the afternoon (she got home at 5 am) we finally took a trip to the greenhouse to get some herbs and vegetables to plant. Now that it’s 90° degrees outside it just feels right. I’m absolutely certain we’ll have them potted by the end of the summer. We came home, threw the dog in the car, and took a 2 1/2 hour drive up the Steese Highway to do some sightseeing in the White Mountains. That’s the nice thing about the midnight Sun, it doesn’t matter if you leave to adventure at 5:30 am or 5:30 pm, you always have a full day of light ahead of you (or 2 months). We took a drive down US Creek Road because it’s very scenic close to the road, so perfect for our gimpy dog. I’ve also never been there in summer, so there you go.

DSC_8821 Here is the view we were treated to at the top of US Creek Road. There was enough wind to keep the mosquitoes at bay and comfortably take the dog for a little walk to stretch his legs. The temperatures felt a little oppressive, but we got a break from the heat down on the creek.

The White Mountains are approximately a million acre recreation area very close to Fairbanks in the Alaska Interior. They don’t get much attention nationally because there aren’t the crazy majestic peaks with rivers of ice running between them like in the Chugach, Wrangells, and Alaska Range. For my friends back east, that’s about 200,000 acres larger than the White Mountain National Forest and the two ranges are very similar in elevation. The main difference between the two is that not a single road passes through the White Mountains in Alaska. There might be Bostonite peak baggers out there, I don’t know, I’ve never run into them. You can gain access to the trails from the Steese and Elliot Highways, from there you are on your own, and you can pretty much go anywhere you want or are physically capable of getting to (most hiking in AK is like this). Mt. Prindle would be the analogue to Mt. Washington and its a 19 mile round-trip hike. There is ample big-wall style climbing on Mt. Prindle. I’ll venture out there in late summer or early fall to get some photos. I hope you have enjoyed this description NH friends (why are you not visiting?).

Talk is boring, here are more pictures.
DSC_8850 We got to Nome Creek and there was still quite a thick snow/ice pack. You know who loves snow and ice? Moose does.

DSC_8857 I don’t have a full grasp on what the game is, but it typically consists of running back and forth as fast as possible and grabbing anything he can possible grab. It’s usually a shrub, or small tree. Next the shrub or small tree is ripped out of the ground. He then tackles you. It only happens on snow. This was a special day.

More of Nome Creek:
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The amount of ice was crazy considering that it was nearly 90° F. Did I tell you that it was nearly 90°, because it was and is. This is the hottest spring/summer since we moved here.

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DSC_8863 Cool frazil ice crystals on the surface. Fun to play on, but the whole sheet just kind of disintegrates on a slope and you fall down.

DSC_8826 In the Nome Creek bed.

DSC_8865 The drive down into the valley is mostly through a burn zone. I don’t have any idea when this burn occurred. I’ll check next time. Also, in Alaska, you’re pretty much always going through an old burn zone.

And more of the happy dog:
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It was getting past 8 pm and we were all hungry for dinner so we left for Silver Gulch, which is on the way home. We sampled some new beers, I ate a pizza, Kate had a burger. It was a good day.

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