A Hike in the Baird Mountains
Kiana Travel Blog› entry 17 of 38 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.