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Showing posts from 2021

Hike to Williwaw Lakes and Long Lake

Update 7/3/21: Trail to Williwaw Lakes is now open. Check the Alaska State Parks Facebook page.   Walrus Lake (Uppermost Williwaw Lake) Overview: The hike to Williwaw Lakes is one of the most beautiful in Alaska's Chugach State Park. This trek which is a short drive from downtown Anchorage, offers a variety of options including day hikes, overnight or multiday adventures so you can make it as easy or difficult as you want. (In the winter, it is also a popular ski trail and can usually be hiked to the lower Williwaw Lake depending on snow conditions.) The trek takes the hiker through alpine tundra amid a variety of alpine flowers, grassy meadows and scrub hemlock. The pristine alpine lakes are situated in a mountainous valley above Anchorage at the base of craggy Mount Williwaw (elev. 5,445 ft.). If you make it to the upper lakes, you will be rewarded with stunning views of surrounding mountains and possible wildlife viewing of dall sheep, moose, coyotes, fox, and various waterfow

Celebrate Llamas!

“Humming Along With Llamas” A conversation with previous President of GALA and current Llama Promotion Committee Chair, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt Why is National Llama Appreciation day June 21? Over the centuries the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere has been celebrated as a time of re-uniting with and appreciating the natural world. The summer solstice and the appreciation of llamas is a natural and historical fit. Our summer solstice is the winter solstice in the Andes, ancestral home of our llamas. The Andean June solstice celebration continues today with traditional recognition of the power of the natural world, including attention to llamas. ​ What better symbol to acknowledge our summer solstice than to honor and appreciate llamas, one of the world’s oldest surviving animals. And to recognize the gentle nature of these animals who are often referred to as “old souls” as they seem to understand so much about human nature. More here:   LLAMA APPRECIATION DAY June

Awesome Arctic Valley

(Photo: View of Eagle River Southfork Valley from above the Saddle.) The climb to either Mt. Gordon Lyon (elevation 4,134 feet) or Rendezvous Peak (4,101 feet) are shorter less demanding climbs with a breathtaking 360 view of Anchorage, Eagle River, and the South Fork Valley. Starting north: Denali and the Alaska Range (on a clear day) Knik Arm, Highland Mountain, the town of Eagle River (and the river), its surrounding peaks (Magnificent, Baldy, Black Tail Rocks, Harp, Vista & Roundtop), the south fork of Eagle River with Eagle and Symphony Lakes in the distance, Rendezvous Peak, Ship Creek and Indian Valley, Anchorage, Turnagain Arm, and Cook Inlet. You will also get a good view of the Site Summit where Nike Missiles were held years ago. (As a side note, take care not to trespass on the military instillation which borders the trail near the trail head. There may be fines if you are caught.) Why I like this hike:  Good for all skill levels, trail is easy to follow with var

Llama Beans - What are they good for?

What are llama beans? "Llama beans" or “Alpaca Beans” are the droppings / poop / manure produced by these animals. These droppings do look like brown beans so that's where the name comes from. Alpaca or Llama Beans can be used to enhance your soil and produce superior flowers and gardens and are considered to be environmentally friendly. What are llama beans good for?  As per  Home Guides  by Gemma Craig-  How to Use Llama Manure Llama beans or llama manure "is used as a potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous-rich organic fertilizer in gardens and flowerbeds. Unlike fertilizer sprays and sticks, llama manure is earthy-friendly, and reduces your carbon footprint by recycling a part of nature; it has the added benefit of being odor-free. You can either gather llama manure yourself from your own llamas, or order it from a llama farm, then use it as-is to improve your soil and provide plants with much-needed nutrients. Shovel llama manure into a bucket, then moisten the man

Hike to Heritage Falls, Icicle Creek and Beyond

  View of Eagle River Above the Perch Overview:  The Historic Iditarod (aka Crow Pass) Trail which spans the Girdwood Valley to Eagle River is considered one of the  best trails to hike in the Chugach mountain range because it offers such diversity including glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife. It’s not only a quintessential hiking/backpacking route but an historic portion of the Iditarod Trail that led from Seward to mines in the Interior. It was (reportedly) rebuilt in the 1970s with girl scout labor.  This section of the Historic Iditarod Trail starts from the Eagle River Nature Center (ERNC) and makes for a versatile spring, early summer hike or overnight.  Driving directions to the ERNC :  ERNC Driving Directions Why I Like This Hike: It's a lovely all-season hike (or overnight) suitable for most skill levels. You can make this trek as easy or challenging as you want. If you want a shorter less demanding hike, just make your end point the Perch (mile 4.0), Heritage Falls (mile 5

Lower Eagle River or River Woods Trail (All Season Hike)

The Lower Eagle River trail (also called the River Woods Trail) runs along the Eagle River in Chugach State Park. Often overlooked, it's just minutes from downtown Eagle River. Why I Like This Hike:  This is truly an all-season trail that can be hiked all times of the year including winter.  It's an easy walk that offers convenient access with intermittent views of surrounding mountains and opportunity for wildlife viewing. Due to the flat terrain and accessibility, it's a pleasant hike in any season and suitable for all skill levels including kids and elderly.  How to Get There: The trailhead can be accessed from the south side of the Briggs Bridge off the Eagle River Loop Road where there is pubic parking and a boat launch. Google Maps - Briggs Bridge Access The Nitty-Gritty:  From the Briggs Bridge access, the lower Eagle River trail goes east through birch and spruce forest over relatively flat terrain.  Sections of this trail can be very muddy during spring or early su

Bear Busters!

It's that time of year again... The bears are out and about with frequent sightings in the backcountry as well as our own neighborhoods here in the Anchorage area. When walking or hiking with llamas I'm often asked "Do llamas attract bears?" Bears have been known to attack llamas but our experience has been that llamas don't attract bears anymore than other pack stock or pets. In fact the llama's "alarm call" may act as a good deterrent for bears. Llamas are instinctively alert and aware of their surroundings, and usually draw attention to an intruder by making a startling "alarm call" when it senses danger. A llama is usually aware of a bear long before we can see or hear it and will let off their "alarm call" when the unwanted intruder is around. Click on the hyperlink to hear our Raul llama making an alarm call - Llama Alarm Call However, I would not recommend leaving llamas tied out unattended while camping. In

Attention Travelers: Rental Car Shortage in Alaska

Just a heads up for those planning travel to Anchorage, Alaska this summer, expecting guests or clients,  be sure to check rental car availability before booking a flight.   An unexpected result of the pandemic is a serious shortage of rental cars in some cities including Anchorage. Also check hotel reservations too because staffing shortages are causing problems at hotels and restaurants. To find out more, go here: Hotels and restaurants that survived pandemic face new challenge: staffing shortages Anchorage Daily News: National Shortage of Car Rentals Affecting Alaska  

Hike More (Stress Less) with a Hiking Buddy...

We all know hiking is good for both mind and body as this article points out - Five Ways Hiking Is Good for You .  Now that Covid is winding down and summer is here, it's time to "don" your hiking boots and find a hiking buddy to hit the trails with. To get you started, here's a list of Alaska hiking groups compiled from various Facebook posts and websites. The groups range from easy family-friendly to more challenging for experienced hikers. Some welcome anyone; others are women only and are geared for various ability levels. I included website and/or Facebook links if available. If you know of others, just send me a message (or post a comment) and I will include. Anchorage Trail Walkers - https://www.meetup.com/Anchorage-Trail-Walkers/ Website says - We get out 2-3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays DURING THE DAY, usually at 10am. Women Who Hike Alaska - https://www.facebook.com/groups/284961021989141/ Hike Like A Woman Alaska: Typic

Update on Pack Llamas & Public Lands in Alaska

 Here is a brief update on recent events relating to pack llamas on public lands in Alaska. 1) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recent actions (2020-2021): The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages their land holding through Resource Management Areas (RMA's) that periodically draft new planning documents (every 15 or 20 years) called Resource Management Plans (RMP's). These RMP's act as guidance for future rule promulgation. The following RMA's in Alaska have recently proposed to restrict or prohibit pack llamas based on a perceived risk of disease transmission to wildlife. a) The Bering Sea - Western Interior RMP (BLM BSWI RMP) in early February 2021 became final. Because the llama community was actively involved during the prescribed open public comment period relating to this decision, the outcome was favorable for us. The final language in the RMP reads as follows: "To minimize the potential for disease transmission to wildlife, applications for the use of pac

BLM's Central Yukon Draft RMP/EIS

Attention all camelid owners and friends!  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Central Yukon Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) & Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently open for public comment. The deadline for public comment was extended to June 9, 2021.  BLM Central Yukon At issue is BLM's proposal to hold camelids to a different standard than horses by allowing horses without a permit but requiring a permit for pack llamas in this BLM jurisdiction.   The "good news" is that BLM is not banning llamas in the Central Yukon Management Area. The "not so good news" is that BLM is holding llamas to a different standard than horses . This doesn't make sense because llamas pose no more disease risk (and less environmental impact) than horses and other traditional pack stock such as mules. The specific language we are objecting is as follows.  Maintain effective separation between domestic animals and Dall sheep (Wild Sheep Working Group 2012; cons

The American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP) issues policy statement that opposes banning camelid pack animals on public lands

The American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP), issued the following policy statement in February 2020. This policy statement comes from a professional association of approximately 1000 U.S. practicing, research, and regulatory veterinarians charged with protecting and guarding the health of the domestic and wild species. They understand better than anyone the disease interactions of each species both within and across species lines.  AASRP Policy Statement Concerning Camelid Pack Animal Disease Risk: There exists concern that the entry of camelid pack animals (llamas, alpacas) onto public lands poses a potential risk of disease to resident endangered or threatened ungulate populations including Boreal Caribou, Northern Mountain Caribou, Central Mountain Caribou, Southern Mountain Caribou, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Dall’s Sheep, Stone’s Sheep and Roosevelt Elk. The diseases of concern by National Parks and wildlife managers include: Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, Mannh

Pack Llamas on Alaska's Public Lands

Lost Lake Trail - Chugach National Forest, Alaska Pack llamas have historically played an important role on our public lands by both recreational and commercial users.  Low environmental impact has long been recognized as the pack llama’s advantage over traditional pack animals. For example, llamas do not have hooves but instead a leathery pad on the bottom of their foot. (The print left in the soil is quite similar in appearance to that of an elk or deer.) Llama foot anatomy allows it's foot to spread on soft ground, thereby distributing weight over a larger area. Llamas are much smaller than most equine pack stock with the average pack llama weighing between 300-400 pounds.”  Therefore it comes as no surprise that these sure-footed pack animals are used by public agencies for trail and park maintenance as they are in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, there has been a campaign of misinformation by special interest groups and subsequent proposals by government agencies to ban