Gordon Wetzel is a long time Anchorage resident and has been an active member and President of the Nordic Ski Association, the donation-based organization that is hosting the National Championships in Anchorage this week. Gordon is volunteering for the race committee here at Nationals, and took time out of the day’s work immediately after today’s race cancellation to do a little writing about the lesser-noticed beauty found in Kincaid Park. Enjoy
Are you tired of going around in circles on the cold, shady ski trails? Try a hike on sunny Kincaid beach. The views of Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm, the Alaska Range and the Kenai mountains are spectacular.
Take a walk (or ski) down the coastal trail west of the chalet until you overlook the beach. Instead of following the coastal trail north, walk down the bluff onto the beach. Carefully walk on out to the edge of the ice rubble and watch the interaction of tidal currents and the beach. The tidal changes are amplified by the orientation of Cook Inlet, resulting in fluctuations of 20 to 30 feet from low to high tide.
The twice daily influx of sea water onto the extensive mud flats of Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm combined with the sub-zero air temperature is an ideal environment for making ice as well as the ice fog you’ve been seeing every day. Pans of ice form on the water’s surface and are carried by the currents. Some ice gets stranded on the mud flats as the tide goes out and is re-floated on the next high tide. Some chunks continue to grow with every tidal change and get quite large over the winter. These muddy ice chunks that look like monster boulders are called “stumukis.”
After you get tired of climbing on stumukis and watching the currents, try walking the ridge above the beach to the southeast. You’ll see a path in the snow heading up the ridge. Follow it for as long as you like. Watch for moose and keep a safe distance from them. The land form you are walking on is a sand dune formed when the glaciers receded up Turnagain Arm. Glaciers generate a wind called a williwa, which transports the glacial flower deposited by the glacial streams.
As you walk along the dune’s ridge you can see cracks in the ground caused by slumping of the weak, wind-blown soil. If you don’t want to back-track to the coastal trail, try heading north to the chalet. You can see the lights of the parking lot/chalet from the high points. If you get off the ridge you will have to bush whack through the alders and elderberry and cross the Lekisch Loop trail a few times.
Enjoy the wilds of the Park.