Time For Granite Basin

Sundown on Mt Olds“Spring” follows a long and roundabout path in the landscape around Juneau. The vibrant greens of newly growing plants first arrive in the coastal forests where the the Pacific Ocean provides those few degrees of extra warmth. The transition from snow to lively vegetation works its way up the broad, glacier carved, u-shaped valleys before it finally begins ascending toward the mountaintops. And you might naturally suspect that the alpine environment of the highest elevations is where the path ends, where the last plants leaf and flower. It would make sense to think so, but there is one more spot where the grip of winter lingers longer even than on the summits, and that is in the deep, narrow valleys around Juneau. The most prominent of those valleys is Granite Basin. My two recent visits were made after many leaves had already begun to fall around my home, and yet the basin was scattered with dwarf fireweed that had yet to reach full bloom. At the edges of snow piles that were surprisingly big for August under 1500ft, spindly bushes were just beginning to push out new leaves.

Part of the reason I waited so long before visiting Granite Basin this year was that my summer hiking companion was still recovering from an early spring knee surgery. I’m glad we waited to see the basin until it was in prime condition, and until Corey could make the trip without a setback in his rehabilitation process. For the sake of photography, I’m looking forward to when fall colors come to the valley around Granite Creek, but in terms of pure enjoyment, it’s hard to beet hiking backwards through summer to the time when everything is coming alive and into its prime.

(larger version: Sundown on Mt Olds)