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Monday, June 24, 2013

Byer's Lake: Our 7- Mile Hike in Alaska




Byers Lake Nature Hike
Talkeetna Area, Alaska

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Alaska.... a trip that has been a dream of mine for many years.  I have been writing about some of my experiences there. If you have missed the first few posts, you can read about the Fairbanks area and Denali National Park by clicking these links.

Byers Lake is a small lake located in Denali State Park.  "Small lake" is a relative term.  Everything in Alaska is HUGE, so I guess this qualifies as a small lake.  The lake is 1.23 miles in length and .6 miles in width, and has a shore length of 4 miles.  Our hike was not limited to the immediate circumference of the lake.  We trekked through the woods quite a bit, extending the length of the hike.  According to the Wikipedia, the maximum depth of the lake is 160 feet.  As you can see in the above photo, the lake was still partially covered in ice during the first week of June.

I would like to dedicate this post to our trail guide, MacKenzie.  MacKenzie is a college grad spending the summer in Alaska before continuing on with graduate school this fall. Mackenzie was fantastic!!  (Thank you so much, MacKenzie for an awesome outing!!) She is knowledgable, fun, has a great personality, and in short, she made the hike a most enjoyable day.  I was very much impressed with her ability to identify just about anything that I spotted in the woods.  As you will soon see as you continue to read this post, MacKenzie has a thing for fungi, especially the bracket fungi!

Bracket fungi, or shelf fungi, are types of fungi that belong to the phylum Basidiomycota.  They typically have fruiting bodies called "conks" that are grouped together in interconnecting rows.  MacKenzie can spot a conk a mile away...and she had interesting information on each and every different species we saw!



This is called chaga.  It is a parasite on birch trees, and is, oddly enough, a sterile conk.  It is not the fruiting body, but rather, a mass of mycelium.  It is black due to large amounts of melanin.  Apparently chaga can be brewed into a tea for medicinal purposes.







This is called the Tinder Conk fungus.  A well known use of tinder conk is its use as tinder in making a fire.







Beware this Devil's Club!  It is covered in brittle spines. The plant can grow 3 - 5 feet tall.  The spines easily break off and are painful in the hand!!







As expected, the lichens were gorgeous and plentiful.  Air quality around Byers Lake must be exceptional if judged by the proliferation of lichens.

Fairy Horn Lichen

Fairy Puke

Leaf Lichen

Old Man's Beard


This is False HelleBore.  It is a beautiful plant, but it is extremely toxic!!  If eaten, symptom's begin with nausea and vomiting.  If untreated, toxins will slow respiratory and cardiac function, leading to death.




This, however, is wild cucumber, and is delicious!!








A big highlight of the hike was a visit to a waterfall!









As we progressed around the lake, i did not think that the scenery could get any better....but it did.  These are two of my favorite photos.

The reflection in the water....priceless!

A rare view of Mt. McKinley.
It was a fabulous day!  The only thing missing??  I wanted to see a bear!!  I did see a really cool bear track, though.....  Better luck next time.



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