Flattop Mountain

Before we departed for Alaska, we did some research into possible day hikes. I found that one of the most popular hikes in the Anchorage area is Flattop Mountain. It is only about 3 miles long, so I was not expecting it to be very demanding, and the panoramic views it offered were touted to be outstanding. It sounded like a winner.

In my research I found several descriptions of the hike on the web, but this one caught my attention. In particular, the summary mentioned "bad trail conditions at the top", "several potential hazards", "exercise extreme caution", "several hikers have been injured", and, my favorite, "novices may have problems". Hmmm...Wikipedia says that Flattop Mountain is the most climbed mountain in the entire state of Alaska. It seemed a bit ironic that such a popular trail would have so many warnings attached to it. Also, how do I know whether I am a novice or not? And a novice at what, exactly? Never mind that ominous trail description. After spending the first half of the day at Potter Marsh, we decided to give Flattop Mountain a try. How bad could it really be?

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The day had thus far been fairly cloudy. And when we got to the trail head we realized that we would have to contend with another issue: fog. It was like pea soup. Did that stop us? Ha! We ignored both the ominous trail description and the annoying fog. Onward!

Foggy Field of Flowers


So, up we went. As we approached the summit, the trail got steeper and steeper. And, the trail got less and less reliable. Lots of loose dirt and rock to consider, which required me to use my hands a lot more for balance and leverage. I would take a step, and then wait for my boot to stop sliding before taking the next step. And even though the fog was thick enough to prevent me from seeing any of the great views, I had this sense that any tumble would be a long tumble. It was when I found myself crawling up the side of the mountain (instead of walking...I think the correct term for this is "scrambling") because the angle of the trail was that steep, and the footing was that loose, that I reconsidered my interest in actually making it to the summit. Never mind the group of middle school aged kids who just bounded past us without any apparent concern, I was having second thoughts. I realized that I was perhaps a novice at whatever it was that this particular trail expected of its visitors. And because of the fog, there were no views. To me, the absence of views reduced the value of reaching the summit considerably.

We were within a few hundred yards of reaching the summit when we decided to reverse direction and head back down. That must have been an important decision, because about a third of the way down the mountain we noticed that the fog had finally begun to lift. I was a bit frustrated that I did not technically make it to the top of this mountain, but maybe we could get some nice views on the way down.

Hidden Peak


A view of the summit after the fog had lifted showed a rocky wonderland. If you stare at this photo hard enough, you can see a couple of successful scramblers taking in the now fog-free view from the advantage of the summit. They are the teeny, tiny little tip on that bump of rock in the middle of the summit.

Flattop Mountain


Before we made it back to our car, the fog had completely evaporated, and the views came to life. On one side there were the Chugach Mountains. On the other was the sprawl of Anchorage.

Chugach Mountains

Anchorage from Flattop Mountain Trail


While the fog was in place, it had washed away all the contrast and color. With the fog gone, however, clarity came to the small things too. I found this beauty next to the trail. It is called Alaskan Burnet.

Alaskan Burnet


And these young purplish cones are from Mountain Hemlock. I love the purple on green color combination.

Mountain Hemlock

1 comment:

HANNIBAL said...

Looks like a great adventure! Loved those purple pine cones! Great scenics!