A Hike in the Baird Mountains

Kiana Travel Blog

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Layers of bedrock tilted vertical by tectonic forces.
 

From the air, the 'hog-back' ridge looked like a flat, smooth table which had been gently tilted upwards out of  the earth at a steep angle. On foot, however, the surface was a ragged mass of chunky limestone rubble colored gray by eons of moisture. Walking was awkward. Slipping and sliding on the loose debris of rock made approaching its peak in silence extremely difficult. Any wildlife below the sharp, vertical drop-off would be long gone; alarmed by the clumsy contact of skidding rock.

 

I propped my elbow on a soft patch of reindeer moss, my hip on flat limestone rock, and tried to absorb the spectacular views around me. Countless unnamed mountains, both sharp and rounded, completely surrounded me and stretched to all horizons.

Lichen and clumps of grass added color to the gray ridge-line.
Between them, gentle rolling hills of tundra were broken here and there by jagged outcrops  as though being stabbed by the earth itself with thick dull knives of stone. And between all of those, in the valleys far below, tree-lined creeks and drainages meandered their way toward larger streams to trickle their way to the Omar.

 

The Omar River winds south out of the Baird Mountains to feed the Squirrel River. The mighty Squirrel in turn meanders through miles of desolate tundra to finally empty into the Kobuk River at Kiana. The Omar is low now and where it widens, ankle deep. But in some places where it narrows, against rocky outcrops of tree-covered cliffs, deep pools form with waters green or aqua-blue, clear, and cool. From  my towering perch, the Omar's wide bed appears smooth in white sand but is actually very rocky.

Reaching the tree-line. The Omar River flowing south.

 

I worked my way downward along the jagged ridge-line, poking my head over the vertical drop every so often in my search for wildlife but found none. The rocky cliff below me looked like what would be mountain lion country in the rest of the world, but here in Alaska I would guess arctic fox, wolves, wolverines, dall sheep and brown bear. Caribou also tend to show up in every location from mountain tops to the spruce forests in the lower elevations.

 

As I neared the tree-line, short spruce trees appeared, scattered amongst willow bushes which stood the same height. Hiking became easier on moss- and grass-covered tundra. I stopped on a grassy ledge to leisurely eat my sack lunch and scan the narrow valley below me.

Into the woods.
Its upper level was of yellow tundra with patches of lime-green grass where water would have collected. The next level turned green with scattered trees and brush; then the lower, thick with spruce.  I was able to plot the route I would take if I were hiking down that next hilltop.

 

I finally reached forest and continued down-hill toward the Omar, glancing back periodically to check my progress. I walked with my camera in my right hand, thumb on the ON switch. The trees and brush were scattered, and spread thin enough to allow time to respond to any wildlife encounter.Though I crossed numerous game trails, I saw none. But as always, it was a memorable day in Alaska. 

alyssa_ob says:
What a beautiful hike! I love the photos!
Posted on: May 31, 2008
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Layers of bedrock tilted vertical …
Layers of bedrock tilted vertical…
Lichen and clumps of grass added c…
Lichen and clumps of grass added …
Reaching the tree-line. The Omar R…
Reaching the tree-line. The Omar …
Into the woods.
Into the woods.
Looking back while approaching the…
Looking back while approaching th…
The hog-back ridge.
The hog-back ridge.
Kiana
photo by: rotorhead85