Sunday, August 31, 2008

Flattop Peak Trail

OK, today isn't quite as pretty as yesterday, but that didn't hamper our desire to get out and about. We've been to the overlook at Flattop Mountain several times before, but have never braved the hike up to the peak. Today was that day! I know what you are thinking, didn't you go hiking yesterday? Isn't this a tad ambitious for you? Yes, and yes. Still, we forced the kids into the truck and headed to Flattop. (I say forced, because although the kids love our family adventures, they sometimes need that extra push to get them going. Sometimes, it takes 2 pushes.)
Flattop is famous for being the most hiked mountain in Alaska, so how could we not experience this? There is a reason that this hike is so popular. We were not disappointed. The trail starts at the parking lot with wooden stairs leading to a winding gravel path through the trees and onto the hillside. From there, it's a nice wide path with wonderful views of Anchorage and Cook Inlet. This place is also the home of Blueberry Hill, where there are lots of wild blueberries growing, and almost as many hikers collecting them. We saw lots of berries on the hillside, but had only one thing in mind...the peak ahead of us!
When they say supervision recommended, they mean it. The path gets more hazardous as you near the peak. There aren't any guard rails along the path, and at some points in the trail it is very narrow with a sheer drop off on one side. If you have a fear of heights, the second half of the hike is not for you. If you feel brave enough to handle it, the view at the end is definitely worth it. There were nice stairs made with railroad ties at some of steeper slopes around the middle of the hike. They offer a flat area to sit if you need to take a breather, as well as help with erosion. Just before the last and steepest part of the climb, there was a wooden bench with a dedication plaque on it. It was a thoughtful gesture in remembrance of someones friend and family member, and offered a fantastic view of the city, not to mention a welcomed place to sit and catch our breath. At this point in the climb, I would have to agree. It was "the best dang bench in the world!"

After the family pried me off of that wonderful bench, we headed off again. A few more stairs, and then we came to the biggest challenge of the hike. We faced what can only be described as a rocky cliff. There are painted circles every so often on the rocks to help you safely make your way up the side of the mountain. There pale green spots for the easier route and red for the harder route. Someone must have a great sense of humor, because both sets of spots seemed to be following the same path up the mountain. Finally, we made it to the top! The views are awesome up there, and so worth all of the effort to climb. It took about 2 hours to hike 1.5 miles up to the peak and back. The elevation at the top is app. 3550 feet. This is definitely a hike to try if you are ever in Alaska. It was amazing.

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