You made it. It was a long, uncomfortable plane ride. Who cares what time it is; look out the windows, the sun is still out and if the day's grown long you might catch a breathtaking palette of pinks, cobalts and yellows spilling over the Chugach Range.
It's the longest day of the year. Summer solstice. And you're looking to have an Alaskan adventure, the way the locals might celebrate. Believe me -- we celebrate it. But not on a river rafting trip in near-freezing water, not at Iditarod sled dog clinics and certainly not cooped up in a bus with dozens of other people.
If you find yourself in the Anchorage area today, do yourself a favor and ask someone how to get to the Glen Alps parking lot. Your best bet would be to take a cab if you don't have a rental car, or else ask someone to give you a ride. Alaskans are a pretty friendly tribe of mostly Good Samaritans. (Just don't be pushy, and be sure to offer a little gas cash -- in case you haven't noticed, we pay more for gasoline than you do, even though we live atop a veritable ocean of it.)
Each year, hundreds head up Flattop Peak, Alaska's most-climbed mountain, celebrating summertime, sun and warmth, good company and health. Climbing Flattop on summer solstice is a rite of passage for some, an annual tradition for others, and a great way for anyone new to Anchorage or Southcentral to get oriented to the mountains, the glaciers, the Great One (Mount McKinley to you Outsiders), and just maybe if you're lucky, to spot a few Dall sheep and moose grazing.
Chances are there will be a few musicians up there. The last time I did the solstice hike I found a drum circle, guitar players, children dancing with their parents and lots of very happy people, young and old. It's a family-friendly affair. If you're looking to catch a buzz, you're in luck: It's the best natural high in town.
The solstice climb is sponsored by Mountaineering Club of Alaska. Check out their website for more information. Bring a backpack, some water, an extra layer of warm clothing, some binoculars and maybe even a camera. That's about all – the view will provide the rest of the entertainment you're seeking.
Contact Eric Christopher Adams at eric(at)alaskadispatch.com