Monday, September 21

Wrangell & The Muskeg

Our three days on Wrangell Island have been pretty darn nice, even had some sun! First stop was the Visitor Information Center which also houses the Wrangell Museum. We learned that Wrangell's newspaper (Wrangell Sentinel) is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Alaska, the island had the state's first sawmill, and that Wyatt Earp was the town Marshall for ten days back in 1897. Amazing things, these small town museums.

After leaving town we continued our free campsite streak and explored the island's backroads (courtesy of the U.S. Forrest Service) - the island has only 14 miles of paved road, but we've managed to travel over 175 miles so far. Our most interesting/challenging drive was up the mountain to reach the Salamander Ridge Trail.

View from one of our campsites

 

A Definition: Muskeg consists of dead plants in various states of decomposition, it tends to have a water table near the surface., and can hold 15 to 30 times its own weight in water, allowing the spongy wet muskeg to form on sloping ground.

Looks pretty inviting when you're on the road. No problem.

Shortly before reaching the trailhead the muskeg saga begins - actually it began back in Denali, when we took our hike in the tundra that set the standard for "tough hiking conditions" for us old guys. The road was blocked by a pickup (single lane, hung on the mountainside). So we got out to size things up, a couple minutes later the driver comes out of the bush to move his truck - we ask about the trail and he says "you guys got rubber boots?" (everybody wears them in Alaska) - nope we say - "might get a little wet then" he replys. That should have been our first clue that this might not be a normal walk in the park. Upon reaching the trail the second clue presented itself when the relatively dry floating boardwalk ended - but, as usual, we push on, because certainly it can't get wetter - we're climbing a mountain! It does, and we do! After slogging for nearly a mile we decided to retreat and dry out - Muskeg 1 Old Guys 0. Lesson learned, don't do muskeg without your rubber boots.

Wet and slippery walkway.
Best to keep moving or you sink.

 

The next day, after drying out, we hit the trail to Rainbow Falls. No muskeg (we learned our lesson) but we had a two mile hike with lots and lots of stairs - the trail discription said, moderate to difficulte hike with many steps. Whew!

 

Bonus pics.

U.S. Forest Service cabin which you can rent.