Day Ten of sunshine in Denali National Park! Temps were in the low 70s F.
at Riley Creek Campground this afternoon with a few clouds and some
Too bad we’re both too tired for a long bike ride or hike today. We're
saving our energy for that tomorrow.
We mostly relaxed at the campground today. Jim went with me for a 2½+
mile walk on the McKinley Station, Spruce Forest, and Morino trails to
the visitor center and back. This is a picture I took of Jim standing on
the footbridge where the Alaska Railway crosses Riley Creek:
Later I walked Cody a mile in the campground.
SEASONS OF DENALI
I got bread and milk at the
Mercantile store (very expensive there, too) and found two short-sleeved t-shirts
at half price in Nenana Canyon:
The signs in one store read “End of Season Sale – All Clothing 50%
End of season?? That’s not for more than a month. This is called the "shoulder
season" because there are fewer people visiting the park mid-August
to mid-September. There is also a shoulder season in late May/early June
before the full summer season begins.
The bus schedule became a little lighter after August 9 but it
still seems like there are a lot of people here now. The campground is pretty
full every night, especially the larger “A” sites (probably more
retirees here now).
CJ and Monnie, the campground hosts, will be here until September 20, when
the park pretty much closes for the summer season.
Colorful leaves along the McKinley Station Trail
The Bear Loop in Riley Creek CG stays open all winter for cross country
skiers, dog mushers, photographers, and other intrepid visitors but the
bathrooms are closed.
Because Denali is considered a wilderness area snow machines aren’t allowed here in the
winter like they are at Yellowstone, apparently even for park staff. I'm
glad -- not that we'll ever be in Alaska in the winter!
Rangers and other staff use dog sleds to reach backcountry destinations.
That's why they have so many sled dogs here.
A little side stream along the Savage River (from yesterday's hike)
Savage River Loop Trail, looking north toward the
canyon area (from yesterday's hike)
I talked to CJ a couple times today.
In one conversation he
strongly recommended Jim not ride his bike on Denali Highway tomorrow as
planned. That road, mostly dirt, runs east-west for 134 miles through the
middle of the state between Cantwell and Paxson. The Cantwell end is 27
miles south of the entrance to Denali National Park so Jim thought that
was a convenient place to drive to do an out-and-back ride of 40-50
CJ warned that the road isn't safe on a bike now because caribou hunting season is open. He
said a lot of hunters go ripping down the gravel road in beat-up trucks and
throw up rocks that could hit Jim in the face. They also kick up a
lot more dust than the vehicles on the park road.
Caribou I saw yesterday at Savage River; I'm not
but I could personally
never kill one unless I was starving.
CJ had already
that I hike up Mt. Margaret on the west side of the Savage River.
Our plan for tomorrow is to drive out there again, park the truck,
and cycle (Jim) and hike (me). Jim says he’ll continue on to Teklanika
River Campground, the plan he modified yesterday.
View of Mt. Margaret from the alpine trail above Savage Rock; it's a
up the park road to reach the trailhead to Primrose Ridge and the
I asked CJ about ideal times to visit the park. This is what he advised,
based on hosting at the park for several summers:
The last half of June is
usually nice with spring leaves and flowers coming out. The weather is
fairly dry then, on average.
July tends to be wettest but has the most flowers
(they are waning now).
August is usually drier and fall colors start to
arrive about now, as I've shown in some of my photos.
is cooler and usually dry, with fewer visitors. Colors can be gorgeous
then, but they are very fleeting and unpredictable.
I think I’d like to come in late June and early September next time
we're in Alaska, just to see what different things are in bloom and what
the place looks like in different seasons. Spring and fall are extremely
here, however, and arrive at different times from year to year.
Stacked rock columns in Savage River Canyon
Colorful rocks in the canyon
I worked at the computer for several hours (e-mail, reading news,
working on photos, updating notes, etc.) and Jim sat outside reading
in the nice weather.
In the evening we watched the narrated version of the park DVD I
bought, “Heartbeat of Denali.” It also includes the shorter non-narrated
version used in the visitor center, which I prefer. It shows scenes from
Denali's varied seasons and got us further psyched up for some new adventures tomorrow.
Jim's long bike ride from the Savage River on the park road and my
long hike on Primrose Ridge/Mt. Margaret; includes fine views of
Denali and close-up photos of a moose, three caribou, and several Dall
sheep (did I mention Jim also saw a lynx??)
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil