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Alaska 2004
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: April - August 2004, 6000 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Intent: Observe in wonder.
Copyright © 2004, P. Lutus. All rights reserved.

Walking on the Land
Ridge hike on Bainbridge Island
Mountaintop view on Bainbridge Island
(note boat at lower right)
I hiked many different places this season, exploring a number of new, pretty locations and visiting some familiar ones again. Hiking in the wilder parts of Alaska is rather different from hiking elsewhere. First, there is not likely to be a trail to follow, unless a bear likes walking where you plan to walk. Second, some advance planning is a good idea, because many locations in Alaska are very brushy, and wading through thick brush can use up all your energy in a surprisingly short time, as well as provoke vast numbers of mosquitoes, deer flies and no-see-ums to attack you from their roosts in the brush you're disturbing.

I've started to survey potential hiking locations from a distance, using binoculars from the boat. I survey by looking for large stretches of muskeg meadow, clear of trees and brush. These meadows are often very nice places to walk, relatively easy walking, and they also provide nice views of the surrounding country.

This season I found a bay on Bainbridge Island in Prince William Sound (a bay with no name, 4 1/2 miles SSW of Bainbridge Point). I chose it because it appeared to be surrounded by several large tracts of open meadow. I ended up spending several days exploring the various hikes around the bay (see pictures), climbing one relatively easy mountain to get a better view, and meeting a black bear on his trail (described elsewhere in this page set). Some of the trails and views were quite spectacular. There are several more routes near this bay that I plan to explore next year, some ascending so high that I will have to wait for less snow before trying them.

I also explored some areas on Perry Island in Prince William Sound. There is an anchorage on the west side of East Twin Bay that serves as a convenient access point for several interesting hikes. One hike, moving northwest from this anchorage, is nearly free of thick brush, and takes one to a dramatic mountaintop view of the entire western Sound.

Another hike I have made before, Devilpaw Mountain in Bluefox Bay on Afognak Island, was better this time, because I chose a better route. This is a hike mostly along bear trails to a rocky, irregular ridge with nice views of Afognak Island, Shelikof Strait, and the Alaska Peninsula. This climb is not terribly difficult, about 2000 feet altogether, and it is very easy walking on top because there's no brush.

Near the top of the mountain I noticed some bear-sign — old bear scat and some areas where bears had dug up edible roots, but all the signs were many months old. I imagined a bear coming up that high in a season when there was little to eat elsewhere. As I sat on the mountaintop I looked at the bear sign and thought about the bear who visited.

I know bears ordinarily avoid places with no brush or shelter if they can. I remember once entering a bay on the Alaska Peninsula and startling a very large bear who was sleeping in an open meadow. He bolted and ran away, and must have run a half mile before finding cover. He just wasn't comfortable until he was concealed by brush.

These hikes I am describing are most certainly not a typical Alaska experience, because virtually no one visits these places. The views range between pretty and spectacular, the hiking is relatively easy, and you typically have an entire island to yourself (apart from the occasional bear). But you can expect the hiking to be more difficult at the lower elevations where the brush tends to be the thickest and the insects are a problem. As to insects, the best days are sunny and windy, the worst are windless and overcast, conditions during which the insects can easily find you. But avoiding insects while hiking is easy — just don't get warm or breathe.

I keep a detailed list of hiking trails and directions that I add to as I travel. It is much more detailed than these Web pages and may provide some helpful hints. Click here for the plain-text trail guide.

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