On or near the summer solstice each year, a local helicopter company flies back and forth to the top of Hamar Mountain ( pronounced “hammer”) so that the locals can hike up or down the mountain, in celebration of the longest day of the year. It’s a great idea, and for $30 you get a 10-minute ride in a helicopter (which I always love) plus the opportunity to hike. 🙂 Along with some of Steve’s friends and co-workers, we decided to catch a ride up and hike down, and luckily a couple of the guys had done it before, so it was no problem finding our way. The trail is not exactly marked; this is no tourist town!! The ride up was in an Astar helicopter, which is not very big (only holds 5 people, including the pilot) and it was great. At the top of the mountain, which is about 3500 feet above sea level, it was bare rock, with no trees or snow, but with the most beautiful wildflowers! There were tiny vibrant purple ones, and tiny whitish-yellow ones that looked a bit like crocuses. So beautiful. The rocks were sort of limestone-looking, in layers, and we got excited about looking for fossils, which we’d heard were everywhere along the trail. By the time our group was ferried to the top (3 helicopter trips), it was about 7:00 pm and then we started down.
The first part of the trail was a gorgeous green meadow; it was nestled between the rugged, bare peaks and a ridge that ran parallel to the mountain range (Hamar mountain is part of the Franklin Range). It was quite squishy to walk on, kind of grassy and mossy at the same time, with more of the beautiful flowers. We found a snow bank that had not melted yet, in the shade of the mountain, and that was part of what kept the ground so moist with the constant source of water. We got our shoes wet a few times when we stepped into soft spots! As we hiked farther along, we followed a stream that developed, and there were rounded rocks along the edge. The more we went, the larger the stream got, until we came to a beautiful 3-stage waterfall! It was amazing. Carving out the rock, the water fell in 3 steps, with little pools in between. The final one was about 12 feet high, and we all stopped and gaped at it for awhile. Steve got the silly idea to put his head in the falling water, and I said “go for it” and he did!! It was pretty cold, he said!! What a guy! To reach the waterfall, he had to step in the pool at the bottom, but didn’t seem to care that he’d soaked his leg halfway up to the knee! 🙂
We continued along, following the creek as it winded along, through boulder-fields, cut-out-canyons, and another lovely waterfall. At times, we had to hike the long way – because the canyon was too narrow, we had to go up and over, which was tough going, due to the slope to climb and the bush-wacking. As I said, there was no path, so all we could do was try to make our way through. There were giant ant-hills that looked like sand-piles 6 feet across! As we neared the bottom of the mountain range, we hiked along a wide, boulder-strewn canyon which joined with another canyon, where the majority of the fossils are. We found quite a few neat rocks, but the only fossil we found was of coral. Still, it was pretty neat! There are so many types of rock in the canyon, we picked up about 40 pounds of rock! Luckily, the only part we had left was to hike across a lovely green valley and up “the goat trail.” Mind you, we had not seen any goats, but the name “goat trail” had me nervous! How nasty was this going to be?
By this time, it was about 11:30 at night, only it wasn’t night! The sun was pretty low, but it had been for hours, gradually moving north-ward, but not down very much. As we started across the valley floor, we entered the light; we had been hiking in the shade for quite awhile. It was nice to soak in the rays of sun as we trudged along (Steve was particularly trudging as he carried the 50-pound backpack, mostly filled with rocks). Snaking its way across the grassy valley floor was a small river. At one point, we had to jump across it – from one mud-bank to another – and the shorter people in the group barely made it! I, luckily, had done long-jump in junior high, so I was quite alright! 🙂 After that, just a little farther until “the goat trail,” a very steep, narrow trail straight up the cliff wall, about 400 feet. It wasn’t easy, no doubt about it, and we all re-applied the bug-spray, as we’d be brushing grass and trees as we struggled up. Along the trail, we had to use our arms to pull us along and there were 2 spots where there were ropes installed so that you could “climb” them. A little ways along, Steve and I swapped the back pack – it wasn’t exactly fair that he should carry all the rocks up that nasty slope! Plus, his asthma was getting bad, with the nasty slope and the heavy breathing. At the top of the trail, his friends had vehicles waiting, so we didn’t have to walk all the way (a couple miles) back to town.
What a gorgeous way to spend an evening! It was after midnight when we got to the top of the goat trail, sun still shining away! It goes down around 1:45 am at this time of year, and rises again about an hour and a half later. Of course, it never really gets dark during this time (for about 4 months). Very, very neat.
Well, that’s all I have for now! I hope you are all doing well, and I’ll be in touch again soon!