Wickersham Dome

On Saturday, June 11, I hiked the Summit Trail to Wickersham Dome, a 3200 foot hill north of Fairbanks, on BLM land. It’s 3.5 miles from the parking lot to the top, for a round-trip total of 7 miles.

The trailhead is about 40 miles from town, on the Elliott Highway north of Fox. I knew I’d be in for an interesting hike when I got there: a thunderstorm was in progress. Incidentally, that’s the first one I’ve experienced all year (the Alaska Interior doesn’t get too many). I was a bit apprehensive, but I started hiking up anyway.

After a half-hour or so, the storm passed. The rest of the way up was pretty boring. Typical boreal forest at the lower elevations, grading into tundra as I climbed higher. Recent rains made for some wet spots, and I couldn’t keep my feet dry. The real attraction wasn’t the trail itself, but the views from it. The photos really don’t capture the sweeping vistas too well. I could easily see for 200 miles or more.

Up top, I was surprised to find that a) it was dead calm, and b) I had cell phone service! I made a call to a relative just as a gag. No more than 5 minutes on the phone, I noticed a cloud billowing over a sub-peak to the west, and it was growing fast. Before it reached me, I felt the cold wind carrying it; the wind chill factor went from nothing to nasty in 5 seconds flat. I got off the peak just before it got fogged in.

Naturally, it started raining, and the rest of the trip back to the car was cold, wet, and miserable. Enough rain fell to make the soggy trail a complete swamp. I slipped and fell several times, stepped calf-deep in mud that didn’t exist on the way up, and the mosquitoes came out in force once the wind died down.

By the time I got back to the car and ready to drive away, I had over 100 mosquitoes in the car with me. I dropped all the windows and tore off down the highway. Most got pulled out, but I was swatting them all the way home to Fairbanks.

But, it was all worth it.