One Man's Mountain

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The mountain goes unnamed on current maps and hikers simply refer to it as “East McHugh,” but 1979 USGS maps briefly gave it its own name: Ruby. Anyone familiar with the peak would find that name fitting. Rising above the Potter Valley neighborhood on the southeast corner of Chugach State Park, its summit and the ridges below it have a graceful symmetry uncommon in the Chugach Mountains. In winter its unobstructed western face rises up to catch the sunset, glowing a brilliant ruby red long after the big Hillside homes on its lower slopes have slipped into night.

Anchorage residents recreated below Ruby for decades, accessing Chugach State Park on an old homestead road called the Stewart Trail. Families walked dogs, jogged, berry-picked and ambled into the tundra for panoramic views of the city and the mountains beyond. When it snowed, locals groomed nordic tracks onto the Stewart Trail and taught their children to ski. Though the area was beloved by many it remained something of a hidden gem, a place where those in the know could slip away from city life into the peaceful wildness of the Chugach foothills.

But in the summer of 2015, everything changed. A hiker and his small dog arrived at the entrance to the Stewart Trail to find a man busily expanding an existing vehicle gate with rebar and barbed wire.

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