We awoke to misty, gray morning. Thick clouds clung to the sides of the summits surrounding the Anchorage bowl and the air felt wet and heavy. The energy in the house was low despite our effort to resuscitate our moods with liberal mugfuls of caffeine. After much hemming and hawing, we settled on staying below the clouds and running up the O’Malley saddle from Glen Alps, traversing the Ball Field and descending the scree slide to Black Lake. From there, we would turn for home down the Williwaw trail which flows into Middle Fork and wrap our way back to Glen Alps.
We started slow, clopping quietly through the brushy low lands. However, the pace quickly increased as we started to climb. Silently, we fell into an unspoken race as we clambered up the approach to the O’Malley saddle. We stopped briefly let the lactic acid purge from our legs and plunged quickly into the fog that covered the Ball Field. If you have never explored the Ball Field it is a “must see” in terms of geologic features. The high plateau stretches for over a mile to the base of O’Malley peak or leads to sharp descent into the Willawaw valley. Giant boulders are scattered across the ‘tundrascape’ and little creeks are framed by banks of moss covered rock. It’s peaceful and majestic.
The clouds lifted as we approached the terminal end of the plateau and we launched down the remarkably smooth scree field which exits at the edge of Black Lake. This is one of my favorite places in the Chugach Front Range. Snow and ice still covered the dark, graphite-colored water. The trail snakes down the hillside to the valley floor and the running is smooth and easy home. Normally, the Middle Fork trail is quite muddy this time of year, however, the trail crews have done some remarkable work keeping it dry and in fantastic form! This is a great time of year for this loop. I highly recommend it!