2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   AWESOME AUTUMN COLORS ON HEALY RIDGE
+ OUR LAST DRIVE OUT TO SAVAGE RIVER

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

 
"Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower." 
~ Albert Camus
 
 
The first time I climbed to Healy Overlook and hiked north along the ridge toward Healy's summit was on August 6, less than a month ago.

Most of the tundra plants were still green then and there were several kinds of flowers blooming at the sub-alpine levels on the way up to the ridge and the tundra along its spine:

There were also some leaves along the lower Healy trails that were turning orange and red, and I wondered if autumn was already on its way that early. Indeed, it was.

One of my goals on this second visit to Denali National Park was to hike along this beautiful ridge again. I finally got up there today, and boy, has the foliage changed significantly in just under four weeks! There's no doubt that autumn has arrived at Denali and it's 'way more colorful than summer.

Here's what that same viewpoint on the ridge looks like today, all dressed up in its bright fall finery where "every leaf is a flower:"

The taiga terrain down in the trees and taller shrubs was also a tapestry of yellow, gold, orange, red, and maroon. All the remaining photos in this entry are ones I took today.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start the journaling a bit earlier . . .

CABIN FEVER:  TIME TO GET OUTSIDE!

Jim and I both stayed inside most of the last two days because of clouds and/or rain and chilly temps. We were both tired from our strenuous hike (me) and bike ride (Jim) four days ago but we didn't need that much rest; we mostly wussed out because of the weather.

It was definitely time for me to get outside for a longer hike, not just because of cabin fever but also because it's our last full day at Denali. I didn't want to regret "wasting it" later.


With some blue sky this morning, Healy Ridge looked much more inviting to hike.

Fortunately the weather cooperated a little bit better today. It was still rather damp and chilly (50s F.), windy, and ran the gamut from sun to rain -- mostly cloudy with some periods of sunshine in the morning and afternoon, as well as a few rain sprinkles after lunch.

I also ran into a little bit of sleet and a whole lot of wind at 3,600+ feet elevation on Healy Ridge in the afternoon. It snowed again above the 4,000 foot level.

The peaks in the background in the next photo were cloud-covered on my way up to the ridge. When the clouds lifted a couple hours later, I could see snow that had just fallen while it was sleeting a few hundred feet lower on the ridge where I was hiking and raining farther down in the valley:

 

Beautiful colors in the tundra (above) and close-up of the fresh snow on peaks (below)

I thought there would be more people on the Healy Overlook Trail than there were. I didnít see more than two dozen people when I was going up and coming back down.

SCENERY FROM THE TAIGA

Jim let me off at the trailhead at the railroad and picked me up when I was done. That way he had use of the truck during the 4+ hours I was gone.

Here's a map showing the Taiga and Healy Overlook Trails:

As on August 6, I went beyond the overlook to the undulating ridge but didn't go quite as far as I did in early August.

I took some of these photos on the ascent and some on the descent. I often turn around to see the views behind me, especially on a loop or one-way hike but even on an out-and-back hike. I was out long enough today for the light to be different on the return because the sun was shining more then.

There was a lot of vibrant red and orange color in the low plants and shrubs along the trail the whole way, as well as bright yellow and gold aspen leaves along the RR tracks, Taiga Trail, and lower Healy Overlook Trail in the first mile of the hike:


Arrow = trailhead for Taiga Trail, which leads to the Healy Overlook Trail and the ridgeline


Pretty aspens on the Taiga Trail

Although most of the wildflowers are done blooming along the trails they are even more colorful now with the autumn stem and leaf colors:

 

 

 


Looking east toward the peaks above Nenana Canyon, which are also very colorful


There are numerous low red shrubs like this all the way up through the sub-alpine areas of the trail.


Note the raindrops on the leaves.


This deciduous shrub is different and grows taller than the ones in the photos above it.

There are also many pretty reddish-pink fireweeds that have lost their blooms; their stems are even brighter than the flowers were a few weeks ago.

The next several photos show the autumn stage of fireweeds and another tall red plant. Both are prolific in the hillside meadows and rocky areas in the second mile of this hike to the ridge:

 


Note the blue-colored berries on the spruce branch in the upper right corner.


Looking SW to the park headquarters and bright yellow aspen leaves in the valley.

 


This is the easy part of one of the rock climbs on the Healy Overlook Trail.

All the leaves seemed brighter and more beautiful the higher I climbed. probably because they get more sunshine where there are fewer trees.

Is it any wonder the meadows and hillsides look so magnificent in autumn? Just think of the gazillions of these plants, shrubs, and trees growing over six million acres of wilderness at Denali . . .

You've got to see this place in the fall! If it's not already on your travel bucket list, add it.

SPOTLIGHT ON ASPENS

By now most of the aspen leaves are mostly gold and orange, even at the lower elevations near the park entrance. 

I took numerous pictures of stands of aspens down in the valley as I ascended/descended the trail. The most expansive views were at higher elevations where I got above most of the trees and tall shrubs in the last mile before I reached the tundra. Here are a few of them:


View SE toward the park entrance and Nenana Canyon

Above and below:  view to south of Mt. Healy

 


View SW toward park headquarters/sled dog kennels
I could hear the dogs barking as I hiked up to/down from Mt. Healy.

Sometimes the sun would peak through the clouds and it looked like Mother Nature was shining a spotlight on them.

That was hard to capture clearly with my camera, though:

Continued on the next pagescenes from the sub-alpine and alpine areas up to and past Mt. Healy Overlook

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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