No Lazy Feat: A hiker’s postcard from Lazy Mountain

Palmer farmland, the Butte, Lazy Mountain (Emily Russell/Alaska Public Media)

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder, but there’s still plenty of time to take a hike. Alaska Public Media’s Emily Russell made the trip to Lazy Mountain in Palmer and sent this postcard.

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Most mountains in Alaska are either so deep in the backcountry that they take serious time and resources to get to or they’re so high and technical that they require a level of expertise that recreational hikers, like myself, lack.

Lazy Mountain is neither of those. It’s at the end of a long, paved road in Palmer just an hour’s drive from Anchorage. It’s a climb, rising 3,720 ft. up, but it’s not technically challenging.

Once you’re at the trailhead, there’s a map of the mountain that gives hikers two options: go straight up, covering 3,000 ft. of elevation over two miles or take the longer, less steep trail that switches back and forth up the side of the peak.

I’m here with my friend from Fairbanks, Matt Labrenz. We choose to take the steeper route up and the longer, more gradual one on the way back down.

It’s a bright, summer day and a light breeze is keeping the bugs at bay. It’s also keeping us cool on this calf-crushing endeavor. Almost immediately the trail tilts up at an angle that feels impossibly steep. Thick willows bushes, tall green grasses and prickly devil’s club branches surround us on both sides.

Matt picks a firewood shoot and reassures me that they’re safe and good to eat. This gives me a chance to catch my breath and taste something new and surprisingly refreshing.

The trail is packed with people today — groups of friends, parents with kids, families with dogs and plenty of solo hikers determined to get a good workout in.

Eventually, we’re out of the lush forest and into the wide open alpine.

It’s a clear day so we can see the silty gray Matanuska River ribbon through the valley. The fluorescent green patches of farmlands are bordered by darker spruce trees and speckled with homes and cabins that look tiny compared to the landscape that surrounds them.

There are a fair number of false peaks on Lazy Mountain — pinnacles of rock that look like the summit until you’re on top of them and realize you still have more to hike.

The view from the summit of Lazy Mountain. (Emily Russell/Alaska Public Media)

The actual summit is at the end of a razor-thin ridge. I’m scared of heights, but there’s no wind today, so I can keep myself steady as I hike the final few meters to the very top. An American flag is stuck into the rock and a view of the valley that makes the climb worthwhile.

We scramble back down and decide to take the more gradual decent back to the trailhead. It’s a longer walk, but today the birds are chirping from tree tops and every switchback seems to offer a new perspective on the epic view below.

Lazy Mountain is no lazy feat, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

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Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer. Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF. Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about. Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.