Sunday, July 13, 2008
The Hike and the Eruption
Saturday we headed over to the Ugadaga Bay Trail, our favorite hike. It was another sunny day and not windy at all! The Ugadaga was used by the Native Unangan people for hundreds of years and was still in use up through the 1950's by people living in more remote villages as they walked into Unalaska to trade. It's 2.2 miles each way, considered "moderately difficult," and we are told to be careful of a "steep ravine" along the way. Leaving the trailhead, we walked past a little lake and set out on the narrow, rocky path overlooking the green valley below. The trail winds mostly downhill on the way out (you know what that means for the return trip!), and we soon found ourselves surrounded by an array of curly fiddlehead ferns, the first signs of salmonberries, and many gorgeous wildflowers: chocolate lilies, purple irises, pale yellow bog orchids, cute little buttercups, the strange carnivorous sundew, and too many of my favorite ladyslippers to count! I have never seen so many ladyslippers! Making our way across a small stream, we climbed to the top of the hill where we watched the crashing waterfall on the other side. We had never seen snow still covering part of the bottom of the waterfall like we did this year. Onward to the "steep ravine," which is the most exciting part of the hike as we have to walk a tiny narrow path looking down onto rocks and dirt and water about 125 feet below. We always laugh kinda nervously about how it would NOT feel good to fall off that cliff! We happened to rustle up a ptarmigan from the bushes as we passed by and Rich managed to get a couple of photos of it before it flew off, probably relieved that these big predators did not bring it any harm. The rest of the hike was pretty easy, through more meadows of flowers and low bushes till we arrived on the rocky beach of the Pacific Island side of the island. After eating our lunch, we noticed that it had become cooler and it looked like some weather was coming our way. On our way back, it became more foggy, with a fine mist overhead. After the leisurely hike down, the return contains several steep climbs and I never remember just how much they seem to wear me out! At some point, I noticed that my lips seemed gritty and we both realized that there seemed to be a lot of dust or dirt in the air. Rich took photos of some flowers that he thought had little black dots on them and later realized the spots were specks of dirt. We still didn't really think much of it, figuring that there was just a lot of dust in the air for some reason. We finished the hike, pretty tired after doing our 4.4 miles for the first time this summer, but happy that we did it!
This morning Rich went into work for awhile and called me to say "there was a volcano eruption yesterday at noon, the same time we were starting our hike!" That explains the grit and dirt! Apparently, a volcano about 75 miles away erupted, sending volcanic ash toward our island. We were under an ash advisory through noon today. Hopefully our lungs will survive yesterday's adventure.
Check out the info on the volcano and enjoy some more scenery from our hike.