Our plan was to get back to town around 2 or 3 p.m. so that we could hike up Mount Tanalian and make it back down in time for dinner. We got in around 4:30 p.m. We went to the airline with which we had flown in and asked if they had the phone number for the lady on the plane with us, Ginger, but they didn’t. We were stuck without a way of contacting her to check in about dinner, so we made a pit stop at the Lake Clark Ranger Station for Junior Ranger badges and the park video. As it was nearing 6 p.m., our options to hike Mount Tanalian were to get up there in time for sunset and hike back down hopefully before too much darkness, or to wake up at 4 a.m. and hike up and back before our flight out at 9:30am the next morning. The 4 a.m. wake up didn’t sound very appealing, so we started hiking up the mountain at 6 p.m.
The first part of the walk is very gradual and easy. Then it takes a turn for the steep and you are just taking switchbacks up the mountain. We saw our SCA friends at their camp after they had just finished a day of fixing the trail up Tanalian. We continued along the way and also ran into some blueberry patches. As any good friend would do, we stopped to commune with the blueberries and practiced our usual eating rituals.
We finally came out of the tree and got into the alpine part of the hike. As we were hiking up the ridge I noticed three black rocks on the ridge to our left. The two smaller black rocks started moving around and running! The third black rock seemed immobile in a patch of green, which we later surmised was a patch of blueberries. We were too far off to confirm any specifics, but it was definitely a bear and two cubs. It looked black, but grizzly bears can be black in color so we had no way of confirming without being close enough to assess size, which we were perfectly happy about. Our first Alaskan bears of the trip! We continued up the mountain and got to a section that was a little bit of a rock scramble and saw some Dall Sheep grazing and relaxing on the mountain side.
We made it up to the summit and were pretty exhausted. Other than the blueberries, we hadn’t really stopped for dinner or snacks on the way up. Both of us were pretty gassed so we scarfed down some trout and cheese sandwiches as we sat overlooking Lake Clark. One of my Charlottesville friends, Ami, used to work in Lake Clark and had requested a photo of her dog at Lake Clark. With our screenshot of the dog ready we got a photo of it on top of Mount Tanalian with Lake Clark and the setting sun in the background.
Hiking down earlier probably would have been a good idea, but the sun was mesmerizing. It takes forever for the sun to set at northern altitudes, because of the angle at which the sun is hitting that part of the world. We stood and watched the sun as it started to get darker and later. Around 10 or 10:30 p.m. we finally started making our descent. It was decently well lit for most of the way down until we got into the trees and the trail flattened out. We turned on headlamps and made our way through the forest. We hadn’t really worked out our sleeping situation so we were trying to decide if we should stay close to Port Alsworth or head back out to Lake Kontrashibuna. And then we remembered something, read the next blog to find out what happens!