Independence Day Weekend- Part 1: Lion's Head and Family

 Chip's pine cone memorial

Chip's pine cone memorial

 Lion's head from just North of the trailhead

Lion's head from just North of the trailhead

 I don't think there are enough locks on here

I don't think there are enough locks on here

 Rocky section of the trail

Rocky section of the trail

 Top of the lions head trail

Top of the lions head trail

 Wandering around 4 wheeler trails and finding lakes

Wandering around 4 wheeler trails and finding lakes

 Flying over tanzlina glacier

Flying over tanzlina glacier

Weeks later, I am finally getting part 1 of the 4th of July weekend up. It has been busy as fuck. Not to make excuses and all. But there. Work and more work. And awesome weather that promotes wanting to hike and not work on my computer. 

We got lucky and were able to squeeze a 4 day weekend out of the already long weekend. I got home Thursday night, excited to start packing and GTFO. Like stat. And then that motivation came to a screeching halt.

I went to ensure that my 10 year old chinchilla, Chip, would have food for the weekend. Well, Chip wouldn't move. I guess after 10 years as my faithful chinchilla, it was time for him to move on. I was unsure what to do with him. Put him in a ziplock bag and bury him? Ok, go find the bags in the garage. Get distracted, start packing, don't find bags. Shit. Go upstairs, look for bags upstairs, still no bags, still a dead chinchilla in the cage. Finally, Lindsay found a shoe box, lined it with a grocery bag, and handed me some gloves. I picked up Chip for the last time and laid him in the box. He came with us on some of our adventures this weekend, was memorialized on top of Lion's Head, and buried outside in Alaska. 

Ok, time to start packing and really go. Well, our pets had other ideas. We just started introducing Shiro to Lindsay's cat, Meow, this week. Shiro is very... friendly and energetic and likes to chase and play with everything. Meow is still unsure of her surroundings, especially Shiro, and tends to run.... Shiro has never seen cats before and Meow has never seen dogs before. They spotted each other, Meow took off, Shiro took off after her. They ran around the entire house until Meow tried to make an escape up the blinds in the kitchen. I was able to then grab Shiro and put him outside. The blinds fell off the wall, with Meow clinging to the top of the window for dear life. Lindsay was able to carefully extract Meow from the window. She seemed to sustain some trauma to her face from the incident. We weren't sure how serious. We spent the evening at the vet instead of leaving. 

Overall diagnosis was good for Meow. My brother graciously agreed to look after and keep both pets separated while we were gone. Friday, we packed up and headed north. The plan was to head up to Lindsay's family up the Glenn, spend a day or two there, take the Denali Highway over to Denali NP and spend some time there. 

On a previous trip up the Glenn Highway, we had discussed climbing up that rocky monolith commonly known as "Lion's Head". Well, someone had told me it was called Devil's Thumb. We started our search for info on that outcrop. Turns out there is a place in Alaska called Devil's Thumb. It is a remote and intense climb that had a concerning high death rate for the small number of people that attempt it. Well, that isn't it. We were able to find the proper name and information on the trail that goes up it. We decided to take a detour to hike it on the way north. 

The trailhead is at mile 106 on the Glenn Highway. You pull out where you see the AT&T Cell tower. Park by the (very well) locked gate. Call AT&T and let them know you want to hike up the trail. This serves 2 purposes 1) you aren't illegally trespassing so that's good and 2) they will call search and rescue out if you don't call them back at the time you tell them you plan to be done. I didn't tell Lindsay until after we were done that someone actually did have to be rescued off the trail the weekend before.  

Anyway, park by the gate, call AT&T, duck under the gate, and walk up the road until you see the cell tower. To the right, there is a little trail with a very tiny and easy to miss pile of rocks that leads into creepy, possibly moose and bear ridden, woods. This is your trail. We both hate closed in trails, especially after almost getting stomped by a moose while on one last winter. Neither of us were stoked about this development in the trail. 

Never fear, after maybe 200 yards of walking in the woods, the trail opens up. And gets wet. It is pretty steep in sports. Nothing worse than Flattop in Anchorage but it is sloppy in parts. There are lots of shrubs to grab if needed too. About 3/4 of the way up, you reach a boulder field. We just kind of picked our way across it. I think there is some semblance of a trail along the left side though. After this point, the trail dries out. We continued to the top and were met with gorgeous panoramic views of the Matanuska Glacier and surrounding area.

It took about an hour to get up, and maybe half an hour to 45 minutes to get back down. The trail is pretty easy to follow. In a few places it does split off. It seems to meet up with itself though. The bottom is wet and slick. There is a short rocky section. The top is pretty typical rocky/dirt Alaska alpine. 

We made a pine cone memorial to Chip before we scrambled back down to the gate, called AT&T and were off to go visit family. We spent a pleasant evening and next day hiking, paddling on the lake looking for wildlife and finding beavers, and flight seeing before we said goodbye to them and headed to the Denali Highway. Enjoy some beautiful photos and look for Part 2: Denali coming soon. 

 View from the top of lions head!

View from the top of lions head!

 Meltwater from above- sweet contrasting colors!

Meltwater from above- sweet contrasting colors!