Joined: Jul 2008
‘In the Garden of Eden’
We pulled up to the bus station frozen and shivering, not really knowing what to expect. They say around 1 in 4 visitors actually see the mountain, it had rained most of the night and it looked like it could be rainy again. We hung out at the back of the line, were the last on the bus trying to shorten the time captive as much as possible and picked a seat in the second to back row.
Those buses are slow…but it is all part of the experience I suppose, or that is what I am told. I just wanted to get there and hike around and pet the bears but they kept wanting to stop for every caribou in sight and it didn’t matter if they were a half mile+ away; Tina is good for me, she helps keeps me patient.
With each mile the clouds lightened, there looked like there was hope.
And then, finally after hours of over-annunciated commentary, there it was in the distance……
The biggest thing that is different at Denali, other than the mountain, is that unlike everything I am used to here in Colorado, they advertise that there are no trails….go wherever you want, that’s right GO WHEREVER YOU WANT!!! It’s a big difference from stick to the boardwalk. Really, it is like that in all of Alaska in a way, but especially there it seems. Personally, between you and I, I think that is because they know that 98% of their customer base, Cruse Ship Tour Bus types (and not that there is anything wrong with that of course), don’t mind hiking around a bit but would never dream of straying from the flock. This means that if you feel up to it, have a few skills and adventure in your soul…everything is at your finger tips. It is not my thing but it would be fun to a multi-day backpacking trip.
As the wheels on the bus went round and round, I just sat there and stared searching for the right line, the right ridge and the right route, for a short mid-day hike with my baby-doll.
Finally we were there, Eielson Visitors Center. After a few bites of food and topping off our water we set off, straying from the flock.
Now, I am not a hiker, or a golfer (inside joke), and it has been a long time since I have been excited about hiking, unless it is with a snowboard on my back. My sister is into it, she got Tina into it, and now I hike. But, I love the feeling of exploration more than most anything.
We decided to try to get to the first ridge you see above. Yea, like I said, was not much of a hiker. On a dirt bike that ridge is maybe an hour or two away…if the switchbacks are tight and they throw in a few big rocks. But not on foot.
We didn’t care, we had nowhere to be and all the time to get there…well as long as we didn’t miss the last bus.
We set off down the hill to the river valley.
There were some nice and wide bear paths to follow… just make a lot of noise…
Then we were there, our first water crossing.
Now crossing these little streams, all 79 of them, is not a small task. At least if you want to stay as dry as possible and not go for a swim. They keep splitting and splitting and splitting again with more power than you would think, you just need to walk up and down till you find the narrowest and shallowest option.
The bear didn’t seem to have any trouble though.
The little dot dead center, yea I know, my animal photography is highly-sub-par, not even sure that one is worth posting, but anyways…
We made it through the river(s).
After some hunting and pecking around for a path up we made it up the other bank and decided to just bask in the glory.
Words cannot describe how we felt there in the tundra…just a spec in the creation.
But we couldn’t stay for near long enough…we still had to make it back to the bus.
But first, we had to cross back through.
The river didn’t take as long the second time as it did the first time to cross; we didn’t care nearly as much about keeping dry.
But we still have to make it back up the hill to the road.
We decided to go straight through the giggle-bushes, I’m still not sure that is the proper term but at least this time they didn’t have spikes. Too bad there weren’t any bear paths or goat trails to follow. It was a bit of a struggle getting back to the road, I’m not going to lie.
But we made it back and waited around for the last bus back.
We were exhausted, wet and hungry, and feeling on top of the world. This bus driver was awesome, the middle-aged-plus orange bearded and orange haired intellect wouldn’t even stop for a full-racked Caribou if you asked, he did pause for the Dall on the road though.