Thursday, July 15, 2010
Bitten Nearly Senseless
Brooks Camp in foregrounds, Mt. Mageik in distance
Now where were we? In my last post, you most likely were being totally enthralled and captivated by my description of what an exciting life I am leading this summer here in Alaska. Such free-time activities as crocheting, reading, walking around, eating breakfast, washing clothes, and of course the ever-popular pumice-lobbing surely must have kept your heart pounding with exhilaration in anticipation of my next post.
You didn’t have to wait long. I am nothing if not accommodating.
My usual days off are Sunday and Monday. Sunday I was busy with the afore-mentioned high-intensity activities, but on Monday I actually decided to go out and do something. The weather forecast was calling for a high pressure system to move in (which on this part of the Alaska Peninsula seems to mean that it just might not rain) and I thought what a nice day that could be for a hike. I asked fellow day-offer Jeanette if she wanted to hike up Dumpling Mountain with me, and so we were off at the civilized hour of 11 a.m.
Dumpling Mountain sits right above Brooks River and the trailhead is accessed on the far side of the campground. There is a three and a half mile trail all the way to the top across the long, loaf-shaped ridge. It offers outstanding views of the surrounding lakes and mountains, all the way towards King Salmon (if you are standing on the correct ridge) in one direction and towards the Aleutian Range (no matter where you are standing) in the other. Just the ticket for someone with Camp fever who is tired of looking at bears.
Trail across Dumpling Mountain
It is about one and a half miles and an 800 foot elevation gain to the first rocky overlook and then another two miles as the “end” of the trail disappears at around 2200 feet. White spruce and cottonwood trees at around 40-60 feet above sea level give way to shrubby alders and then spongy mossy tundra as elevation is gained and the summit is neared. The few wildflowers I was able to identify included dwarf fireweed, lupine, yellow paintbrush, and wild geranium.
The rocks are of the Early Jurassic (208-170 million years old) Talkeetna Formation which consists of sandstones and siltstones (sedimentary rocks) overlain by volcanic ash and lava flows (igneous rocks). From what little I have been able to read on this, I believe that these rocks represent a time when various sized land masses were being “rafted in” on the denser Pacific plate as it collided with Alaska and was subducted beneath the less dense North American plate. A lot of volcanism is produced under this type of situation; as the subducted plate dives deeper into the earth, the rocks melt and come up again to the surface again as volcanic rocks, this time as the Talkeetna formation. This process has occurred for the past 200 million years and continues to occur today in southwestern Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
The views were all that could be hoped for.
What we definitely hadn’t hoped for were the white socks.
Bug Woman 1
These nasty, annoying, worse-than-mosquitoes biting insects with white on the lower part of their legs (thus the name) were swarming all the way to the top from the first overlook. Even wearing a head net I spent more energy swatting them than I did walking. It was a good hike made all the worse by these bleeping little bugs because we were not able to stop for a lunch break or even to pause and enjoy the views. The bugs even found their way inside my head net! I was appalled, of course. I managed to stop and snap a few photos but even that was an ordeal. We had to keep moving or we’d have been eaten alive.
Bug Woman 2
We both were bitten nearly senseless by the time the hike was all over and we thankfully returned to camp. I had bites where I definitely shouldn’t have had bites. My throat and neck were so puffy it felt like I had the mumps. There were at least five bites on my right eyelid and I could barely open my eye the next morning. My ears felt like they were covered in tiny, itchy, fat, purple raisins. The freaking bugs had bitten through my clothes – I had bites on my back and on my ankles even thought I’d had my pants tucked into my socks. It would have taken a nuclear-powered insecticide to stop those insects from swarming and biting. Welcome to Alaska in July! Later that evening, a salmon-catching co-worker took one look at my red welts and my scratching and handed me a tube of cortisone cream, saying “Here! Take this and stop scratching! You’re making me itch!” It was the best thing anyone could have done for me at the moment. I will not be going up on Dumpling Mountain again anytime soon.
HA!!! I bet you thought I had been bitten by a bear!!!
Iliak moraine with Iliak Arm; Unnamed mountains in distance