July in the Chugach: Plants, Mushrooms and Scenic Hikes

It feels as if it was just yesterday when we arrived in Alaska. It’s crazy to think that we have already reached our halfway point and that we will be leaving 2 months from now.

Over our time here, we have hiked more than 15 different trails throughout the Chugach National Forest while we continue scouting for priority plant species, collecting voucher specimens, and creating population polygons for flowering and fruiting species. One of our main objectives for this month was to return to previously scouted sites to check on plant phenology. While most plants are still just starting to flower some species such as Lupinus nootkatensis, Calamagrostis canadensis, and Luzula parviflora are currently fruiting and will soon begin seeding.

In preparation for seed collection, we have been conducting research on the number of seeds per fruits, and fruits per plant, to determine whether or not our population polygons are large enough to produce our goal of 30,000 seeds per collection. By the looks of it, we will definitely be able to achieve this goal for these 3 species.

July has proved to be a fruitful month for the fungi of the Chugach National forest. Mushrooms are beginning to pop out of the ground along many of the trails. I even got to see my first Amanita mushroom! From what I have heard these beautiful red mushrooms will start popping up everywhere like weeds very soon.

At the beginning of this month I went on my first backpacking trip where we hiked about 30 miles in total. We started at Devils Creek trailhead and hiked out to Swan Lake (about 15 miles) where we stayed in a cabin overnight and then hiked out to Resurrection Pass North trailhead. It was such an amazing experience!

The weather this month has been unlike anything I have ever experienced. Earlier this morning it was so foggy that I could not see more than 100ft in front of me. Then as I am driving North, I drove out of the fog and into the sunlight and I could immediately see all of the mountains. The Chugach always seems to surprise you with sunshine when you least expect it, and it’s wonderful.