My First Visit to Lake Clark

Last week was my first visit to one of the National Parks that I’ll be working in. Lake Clark National Park sits between the Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay, where the Alaska Range and the Aleutian Range collide. I was headed there for a three-day motorboat operator training (the Department of Interior offers/requires lots of training, most of it quite good). The way to get to Lake Clark is almost always aboard a small airplane, and generally involves flying through Lake Clark Pass, notorious for its beauty. It was cloudy for my first trip, but we got occasional peaks through cloud portals.

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My plane made stops in Illiamna and Pedro Bay to drop off fishermen before getting to Port Alsworth. We banked hard after taking off from Pedro Bay, and could still see the dust cloud on the airstrip from our takeoff as we passed back over it.

 

From there we scooted over a low point in the mountains, crossing low over Canyon Creek:

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and then Upper Tazimina Lake:

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before dropping rather steeply into Port Alsworth, to land on another gravel airstrip.

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Lake Clark National Park’s headquarters is a pretty low-key affair. The below sign directs you from one of the gravel airstrips, around the corner to the visitor’s center and headquarters.

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At the one end of the runway is a small bay, that affords ever-changing, and always lovely views of Tanalian Peak.

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Lake Clark National Park only has a few established trails. I was able to string a couple of them together one evening for a lovely 4ish mile hike. Sections of the trail were awash in bunchberry dogwoods, probably my favorite plant. They were in various stages of bloom, sprinkling happiness all over the forest floor.

Here’s a fun bit of trivia that I just learned on this trip: bunchberry are possibly the fastest plant in the world. They catapult pollen out of their flowers so fast that only recently has camera technology gotten fast enough to capture the event.

Elsewhere on the trail I was greeted by a variety of birch, starflowers, oak ferns, meadows of Labrador tea, and crowberry.

The surrounds offered some distraction from the flora from time to time.

What can I say about the commute home? Nothing that would do it justice. It was not a clear day, but the clouds were high enough that we could see our surroundings as we slipped through peaks and under glaciers on our way through Lake Clark Pass. My jaw was slack and my neck was sore.

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It is a tremendous privilege of mine to be able to work in and for these special places. It is also a reminder of what a privilege it is to have collectively preserved our National Parks and National Monuments. Their establishment was often won in hard fights, and their continued preservation will require more vigilance still.

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