While our boat projects have taken up most of our time since arrival on Unalaska, we’ve made time to enjoy this beautiful island as well! Even chores like driving to the grocery store or Port Office take us past stunning vistas of green, tundra-covered mountains, several still dusted in snow. On sunny days, when the island holds the fog bank at bay just offshore, the sea is a brilliant blue, the perfect counterpoint to the vivid green hills. Here are a few photos just from around our boat, the port area, and our friends’ house:
Fairly soon into our stay here, we bought our hiking/land use permit from the Ounalashka Corporation (the Aleuts) so that we could walk the trails on their land. We’ve used it frequently to hike up a hill right behind our boat where a bunker and gun emplacements were built during World War II. Needless to say, there are incredible views from up there, and we’ve managed to get some pretty nice shots of the bald eagles. It’s a short walk (about 20 minutes up) so we’ve done it several times, in sun, fog, and rain.
We’ve been very grateful to be able to borrow Andy and Daneen’s truck while we’ve been here, not only for stowing our gear, but for exploring further afield. Last year we hiked Pyramid Peak, and this year we drove the other way to hike a trail down to Beaver Inlet, a huge deserted bay framed by mountains. The trail was just beautiful, winding through a lush valley, waterfalls cascading into it, and thousands of wildflowers underfoot.
When we reached the shore at the end of the trail, I was struck by the pristine beauty of the black sand beach, crossed only by a few fox tracks. And there wasn’t a sound except for the lapping of the wavelets. Paradise!
For our second big hike, we’d planned to walk partway up a multi-day trail that crosses the whole island. But when we reached the trail-head, there was no trail. But this is Alaska, so that wasn’t very surprising. We started up a nearby ridge instead, not really planning to do much more than get a view over the valley and the bay behind us.
As well as the stunning view, we saw more beautiful wildflowers, some Arctic ground squirrels, and a willow ptarmigan morphing into his summer plumage but still with patches of white.
Somehow we just kept climbing: the spongy tundra was easy to walk on, and it’s normal in Alaska just to hike where you want to when there are no trails. Two hours later we found ourselves scrambling up rocky cliffs to the top of the highest ridge in our vicinity. At the time we didn’t know it was the highest one because everything up there was veiled in fog. We decided it would be more fun to make a loop than hike down the way we came up, so we scrambled into a valley and crossed a big stream that became a gorge lower down. We ended up crossing five or six more of these before starting the descent to sea level, which we reached just as it was starting to rain in earnest. A great adventure! And all the better for being unexpected!