The sky was a slightly deeper blue than Eklutna Lake on Oct. 1 as I biked along the lakeside trail in bright sun, immersing myself in the sights and smells of autumn. There was a surprising number of people on the trail for a week day, but it made sense. Days like this could be counted on two hands and people — young and old — were out to enjoy it.

Overcast skies set the tone for the 89th running of the July 4 Mt. Marathon Race in Seward as more than 80 adult runners from Eagle River and Chugiak competed in the grueling contest.

Eagle River’s Hannah Booher, a star in the Juniors race in previous years, ran her first adult division race and came in 36th with a time of 1:05:44.  Another young Chugiak runner, Clare Cook, set a quick time of 1:01:23, coming in 15th among the women.

By early afternoon, the first stunning views of Lost Lake came into view as we hiked up through the hemlock forest and entered the green, rolling tundra where the trees were dwarfed and scattered farther apart. A gusting northwest wind sometimes made talking difficult. But above the wind was a deep and intermittent roar in the sky: aircraft, which we knew were part of President Obama’s air surveillance and security force. 

There’s nothing more grueling than climbing uphill through an obstacle course of the kind of dense brush that would protect a king’s castle better than high walls or a moat.

I’m referring, of course, to the kind of brush found in Alaska’s backcountry: thick alder bushes bent in arcs from the weight of winter snows; clumps of prickly Devil’s Club; patches of stinging Cow Parsnip; thorny wild rose bushes; and tangles of high grass.

Any sane person would ask, “Why even try to go through it?”