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A peak in the Chugach Range between Eagle River and Palmer was officially named this year to honor and salute families of soldiers who have died during military service. Eagle River’s Kirk Alkire, a retired U.S. Army First Sergeant who served in the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) 25th Infantry Division from Fort Richardson, first initiated efforts to attain formal approval to name “Gold Star Peak” in May 2017. The Eklutna Tribe and State of Alaska granted their permission and the project generated tremendous support, with solid backing by many Alaska individuals and organizations, including the military. Alkire gathered petition signatures from all 50 states, four countries and one territory and was proudly in attendance when the announcement was made on the Senate floor that the U.S. Board of Geographic Names had voted unanimously in favor of his proposal.

 

Alaska has at least 300 registered Gold Star families – immediate relatives of Armed Forces members killed in combat or in support of certain military activities – and part of the overall undertaking has been to determine how many Gold Star families live in the state. Alkire says, “We recognize that no one has given more for the nation than the families of the fallen. Honoring them by naming this peak is a small token of our appreciation for each of their sacrifices.”

 

Overlooking the Matanuska-Susitna Valley about 40 miles north of Anchorage, the 4,142-foot mountain lies south of the Knik River and a little west of a complex that includes Mount POW/MIA, named in 1999 to remember soldiers who were prisoners of war or missing in action. There is a commemorative plaque at the Matsu Visitors Center Veteran’s Hall of Honor off the Glenn Highway where Gold Star Peak is very visible, and another along with flags atop the mountain.

 

A primitive trail to the mountain begins at Mile 5 on the Eklutna Road, just between the marker and a speed limit sign; another landmark is power pole 85. Many hikers park at a small pull off about Mile 4-3/4 and walk along the road to the trail that begins above a steep bank. The path leads above the tree line into a brushy gully, then breaks out at about 2,800 feet. A steep pass to the east accesses the mountain’s summit ridge, for an overall elevation gain of about 3000 feet.

 

In response to requests from veterans and surviving family members for assistance in making the moderately difficult climb, Alkire founded Gold Star Peak, Inc. In its first season, the non-profit helped well over 100 people including children and seniors to undertake the healing pilgrimage to the top. For those requiring an easier pace, their combat veteran guides offer other free nature adventures ranging from viewing the Northern Lights to watching the salmon run. For more information, visit goldstarpeak.org.
 

 

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