Sunday, November 3, 2013

Makin' Tracks

"There are two things that interest me, the relationship of people to the land and the relationship of people to each other."             - Aldo Leopold 

We headed out yesterday afternoon to explore ATV trails off the Nabesna Road.  We explored the Copper Lake trail that runs through the dense taiga along a well maintained trail that would be excellent for any number of recreational activities.  I was dreaming of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snow machining, and of course, summertime activities like trail running and mountain biking.  The temperature was in the mid-20's, which has been some of the coldest weather we've experienced out here, to date.  We were out for a total of three hours, and the kids held up really well right up until the last 20 or so minutes when the sun had dropped and we were weaving our way back through the low, dense part of the woods.  As we moved through that area, you could feel the air temperature grow colder and colder.  I had to laugh, because by March I am sure the kids will be asking why I insist they wear coats and snow pants when it's in the 20's.  For now, they were a little cold and happy to get back to the truck as the sun set.  

Driving out the road the golden sun hung low on the horizon, casting long shadowy lines across the snow and ice covered road.  The dense, short spruce filled woods leave for open spaces in the view and even when you are nestled right in the thick of it, you can often spot views of the surrounding mountains, including Mt. Sanford.  During the 16 or so mile drive from The Moose Lodge, out to the trail head we did not pass a single car.  Not one.  Needless to say, we arrived at the trailhead to find we had the vast wilderness all to ourselves.  
As Parke unloaded the ATV and trailer, I snapped a few shots of the scenery.  Looking down the trail from the parking lot, revealed a clear blue sky view of Mt. Sanford waiting out in the distance, off the trail.  

"I could never resist the call of the trail." - Buffalo Bill                      

A frosty picnic table, coated in a thin layer of early winter snow glistened and sparkled in the afternoon sunshine, like bars of gold laid out side by side.
We came to a creek crossing a few miles in and I had to stop and photograph this bridge.  It is kind of incredible when you think about how far out in the thick of the wilderness we were, and yet a beautifully constructed bridge waited for us, providing ease of access to the vast wilderness.

Just over the bridge crossing the temperatures dipped lower and lower, as the sun fell out of view and we wove our way through the crisp, dark woods.  

Looking back across the bridge as we moved deeper and deeper into the woods. Following the tracks of coyote and wolf, and what we guessed might have been a lynx. Tiny squirrel and spruce hen or willow ptarmigan tracks skittered and scattered around the light snow cover.  Caribou tracks meandered along the trail and then back into the dense brush, then back again.     
Tiny squirrel and spruce hen or willow ptarmigan tracks skittered and scattered around the light snow cover.  Caribou tracks meandered along the trail and then back into the dense brush, then back again.                       
"The cleverest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness." - John Muir 

 "It's the way you ride the trail that counts." - Dale Evans                    

Much of the trail looked like this:  

Dense taiga bathed in golden sunlight, following along a trail that was comfortably wide enough to travel without the constant annoyance of stray branches waiting to poke out someones eye.  It made for a nice, scenic ride. Then we reached an open marshy meadow, frozen in time - a reflection of the swampy marshy tundra, now covered in thin sheets of ice settled into low spots in the earth, and the ruts made by ATV's earlier in the year.

"The wilderness is the preservation of the world." Henry David Thoreau 
"Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness." -Unknown     

Mt. Sanford sits directly under the glow of the sun.

A snapshot of Sanford in the sunshine, taken across the thin layer of marsh ice, reflecting the rays of the sunshine and illuminating the contrast of short spruce against the crisp blue early November skies.

"My restless roaming spirit would not let me stay home for long." - Buffalo Bill 

Parke looking out toward Tanada Peak, taking in the waves of thin, high clouds stretching across the crisp blue sky then disappearing as they fly into the intense glow of the sun.

After traveling 7.15 miles in a little over an hour, we stopped at a big clearing and George made snow angels on the sheets of marshy ice.  

 "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Eliot  
Then we had a hot apple cider party out in the clearing and ate some snacks, taking in the expansive view, 360 degrees of mountains, one vast range drifting into another, where the Wrangell's meet the Mentastas.  
One hour before sunset, we headed back to the trailhead, reluctantly, with a dead camera battery, and a back-up battery I thought was charged up, was in fact dead as a doornail.  

Based on the golden light covering the landscape, we knew it was only going to get better from here on out, but with a little over 7 miles to go, we headed back into the woods and stopped along the trail to observe the sunset and watch the endless stream of jet planes making their mark across the sky, the trails reflecting in the sunshine, creating a strange luminescence.  

Then, with a gentle massage to coax a tiny bit of life back out of the dead battery pack, I managed to capture this one final parting shot, before the camera really died for good:
"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air." 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson