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
There were also some leaves along the lower Healy trails that were turning
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.
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
Beautiful colors in the tundra (above) and close-up of the fresh snow on
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
numerous low red shrubs like this all the way up through the sub-alpine
areas of the trail.
raindrops on the leaves.
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:
blue-colored berries on the spruce branch in the upper right corner.
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.
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 page: scenes from the
sub-alpine and alpine areas up to and past Mt. Healy Overlook
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil