Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back In The Valley Again

NOTE: The computer went down for a few days (the phone is still down) before I could post this last Saturday morning. I went on the hike into the Valley and so will have some notes and pix in a couple of days - as long as the computer isn't down again!

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This past Thursday was my day to lead the tour to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Nobody cancelled! It was about time. I am becoming really OVER these bears and all. I’m here for the geology, after all.

I was totally jazzed for the tour. Wednesday evening I had re-read (for the bazillionth time) the Geologic Road Log Along Bus Route to Overlook Cabin in my well-thumbed copy of “The Geology of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska” by Jim Riehle.
NOTE TO MINNESOTA SUE: You should order this little gem from Alaska Geographic Association before you come out here.

Come 8:25 a.m. Thursday and I was already going off to anyone who would listen about ancient beach ridges, plant progression after the glaciers retreat of 10,000 years ago, the 150-million-year-old Late Jurassic bedded sedimentary rocks of the Naknek Formation that comprise Mt. Katolinat (which we couldn’t see in the clouds but I talked about anyway), terminal moraines, ash dunes, volcanic arcs, the headward erosion of Margot Creek, the Knife Creek Glacier, plate tectonics and subduction, index fossils, Ukak Falls bedrock (Naknek Formation also), mudstone and greywacke, magma mixing, banded pumice, pyroclastic flows, the 1916 National Geographic Society expedition, Novarupta vent, and Mt. Katmai caldera. And I was doing this while sounding to myself like I was talking underwater, due to something going on in my left ear. Perhaps a couple dozen blasted little white socks flew in there last week and got lost.

One of the tour participants commented about a friend of theirs who is a geologist and geology is all HE talks about, too!
“GET THIS VEGETATION OUT OF THE WAY – IT’S COVERING UP ALL THE ROCKS!!!”

But that’s not all. My same-weekend-days-off hiking buddy Jeanette and I are going BACK to the Valley this Saturday after work (our Friday). Our plan is to stay in the Three Forks visitor center Sat. night and then get out early and backpack about 6-7 miles up the Valley, set up camp, and then do whatever. I want to reconnoiter part of the route I’ll take next month getting to Novarupta with Minnesota Sue. There is only one creek crossing at Windy Creek on this trip, but in August we will need to also cross River Lethe (with sincere hopes THAT river crossing doesn’t become as devilish as its name might imply).
NOTE TO MINNESOTA SUE: There are two river crossings. Bring some sandals.

Walking in the Valley is not difficult since the elevation gain is very gradual – on the topographic maps there are few contour lines of concern except those of the mountains that ring the Valley. We will start out on the Windy Creek trail and then skirt the Buttress Range into the Valley where, at mile 5 or 6 or 7 there are some good campsites with springs for water. Jeanette and I don’t really have a plan to get anywhere specific. I just know that I want to get the heck out of my cabin on my days off and am antsy to get out to the Valley. I have a good tent, backpack, hiking poles, sleeping bag and pad; we will borrow my cabin-mate’s Rocket-Pocket backpacking stove and a pot in which to boil water. We can throw together enough food to keep us going for 2 days until our return to camp Monday evening. We’ll stash some extra food and dry clothes in the visitor center, just in case. We’ll take a radio and bear spray.

Oh yeah – about the food – we will carry our food in a bear-resistant food container. Woo Hoo!!!

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