Piles of Adventure
By Jamie Hazlett
Sun Star Columnist
Autumn is fleeting in Interior Alaska. This being the case, anyone interested in seeing how the Great Land does fall needs to be quick about it. For those who missed out on the Outdoor Adventures’ Fall Colors Photo Hike on Sept. 19, this week’s column will focus on great spots to have the year’s final picnic, take pictures of the foliage, and just plain bask in the sun.
Before we venture outside of town, let’s examine a couple of options for those who have limited access to motorized transportation. Closest to campus is, of course, the UAF trail system, which offers the chance to observe not only Alaskan leaves changing for the season, but also the transition of non-native species present in the Exotic Tree Plantation. Visit the UAF Facilities Services website to download a map of the trail system. Alternately, those willing to take a walk, ride their bike or hop a bus a few miles down College Road can visit Creamer’s Field, where migratory birds continue to stop off on their way south. The trail system at Creamer’s has several path options, making it usable for any skill or fitness level. Stop by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s website and search for Creamer’s Field to view a map of the routes. Another option for the vehicle-challenged is to sign up for Outdoor Adventures’ Mount Prindle Day Hike on Sept. 25. Visit the Outdoor Adventures office in the Wood Center for details.
Those able to venture further a field have several partial- and full-day trip choices. Perhaps the easiest expedition, especially for those new to Fairbanks, is to head up to Murphy Dome. This trip can be done as quickly as a couple of hours. Views of the Goldstream and Greater Tanana valleys are superb from Murphy Dome Road and its many offshoots. On a clear day, Denali is often in sight.
One might also take a jaunt out on the Steese Highway north of town. Cleary Summit offers long-distance views and a convenient turnaround just a short distance from town; those with a little more time on their hands could venture into the high country and visit Eagle Summit, 102 miles from Fairbanks. Those who have not seen the Yukon River can do so if they extend a trip to Eagle Summit, following the Steese to its end in Circle, 150 miles out of town. Voyagers who journey past Cleary Summit should remember to drive carefully, as most of the road is gravel and you’ll be sharing with semis and other large vehicles. Make sure to leave town with a full tank of fuel, plenty of water and something to eat, as there are no services between Fox and the summit turnaround.
Heading south on the Richardson Highway to Harding Lake is a great way to see the fall colors and take a free dip in the water. Thanks to the shallowness of the lake near the boat launch area, the water is still getting relatively warm in the late afternoon, making it admirable for wading. Anyone with sensitive feet should bring wading shoes or flip flops of some sort, as the bottom is rocky. Picnic tables, bathrooms, and campsites are available at the lake for public use. On the way home, stop by the Knotty Shop for an ice cream cone to top off the day.
As we slip past the equinox and into the long winter, embrace these last opportunities to venture outside without wearing your entire wardrobe. Be vigilant wherever you choose to venture, as this is a prime travel season for Interior moose. For a refresher on backcountry travel tips, visit the Alaska Department of Natural Resources website and search ‘be safe’. Whether you see the sights close to home or head out for a bigger adventure in the coming week, don’t forget to soak up all the sun you can and take a quick roll in the leaves – the beauty of the Alaskan outdoors is that no one will be around to tease you for it.
UAF Facilities Services
Back-country travel tips