2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Denali AKA Mt. McKinley

 

   
 
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   WILLIWAW LAKES TRAIL HIKE, p. 2

  FRIDAY, AUGUST 14

 
 

Continued from the previous page.

WILLIWAW LAKES

I was a little concerned that the lakes at the end of the trail might be low or dry because I passed some rocky depressions that are probably full of water when the snow is melting; they were empty today.

But there was enough water in the outlet creek and several ponds and small lakes at the end of the trail to make the hiking effort worthwhile :

 

 

 

Three people passed me outbound near the lakes . . .

. . . and I saw another four people at the farthest lake. Two older women had already set up a tent and on the return I saw three more groups of people with backpacks who were heading to the lakes for the weekend. 

I spent about half an hour walking near the lakes and creek in the upper end of the valley. I would have spent more time there (and picking berries) but it was getting later. Two other trails continue up to the O'Malley Ridge and the mountains on the other side of the valley, for those who wish to hike farther.

 

I turned around a little before 6 PM. Fortunately, some gray clouds had moved out and the sky was more clear early in the evening. However, my photos on the return weren't as colorful or clear as the ones earlier in the day.

I continued to call out "Hey, bear" on the way back but not as much as outbound since several other people had been on the trail ahead of me.

MUCHO MOOSE

About two miles from the lake I came up and around a corner and caught sight of a large bull moose in a little depression on my right. I was only 20-25 feet away from him. He posed beautifully as I talked softly to him and took several photos:

He had a much bigger rack than the first little guy I saw near the beginning of this hike. 

That made my hike right there, but things kept getting better. Near the same place on the Middle Fork Trail where I saw the first young moose, I saw two bulls and a cow on the hillside above me. Neither bull was the one I saw earlier; their racks were significantly bigger:

 

I saw another bull (moose #6) in the valley but didn't get a picture of him because I was facing the sun. 

I saw a young female runner on both the Williwaw and Middle Forks trails. When I saw her the second time I asked if she ran these two trails often -- no, it was her first time and her new favorite route! I told her I liked them, too. She said if I liked these, I'd like the trail to Symphony Lake even more.

That's one I've considered but haven't done. The trailhead is off Hiland Rd. in one of the Eagle River valleys. [With that enthusiastic recommendation, I did hike there a few days later.]

 

 

At the intersection with the Little O'Malley Peak Trail, just over a mile from the parking lot, I looked up and saw a guy in a hang glider after he had just taken off from the O'Malley ridge.

It was fun to watch him float over the valley:


Arrow marks the hang glider;  O'Malley's jagged peaks are in the distance.

He landed ahead of me on the trail. He was folding up the glider fabric when I passed him. I thanked him for the show!  

BEAR?  WHAT BEAR??

I continued up the trail to the Powerline road. Just before reaching it I could hear voices (they really carry in the valley) and heard a loud crash into the bushes above me, about 25 feet away. When I got up on the trail I looked but didn't see anything except an excited young man about 50 feet up the trail.

I continued on, curious but not even thinking "bear." I'd stopped yelling "Hey, bear!" a mile ago, since I was running into more and more people.  

The young man asked if I saw the bear. What bear??


Trail I was coming up on = to the left (arrows); Powerline Trail on right.  The bear
 crashed through the trees on the left and came back out on the wider trail.
(I took this photo in the early afternoon when there were more clouds.)

Before I arrived on the scene the bear had come out of the trees a few hundred feet above the trail intersection and walked down the trail. Something -- maybe me -- scared it into the brush.

About a dozen people and several dogs were standing at the top of the hill, at the intersection with the trail to the parking area. They must have thought I was nuts but since I didn't see the bear, I wasn't afraid.

Soon the young man turned around and said, "There he is again!"

A large black bear was headed on down the Powerline Trail away from us but toward a woman walking by herself on the trail.

I got a couple pictures of the bear while the young man yelled to warn the woman. I don't think she heard him.

 
Bear butt; glad he was headed the other direction.

I was in a hurry so I continued on to the truck.

How ironic. I was in true wilderness for hours, with very few people around me, and didn't see a bear. Half a mile from the parking area, with dozens of people around . . . there's a large black bear!

Then I had the pleasure of seeing yet another moose (the seventh one today) about a mile from the campground on base, along Richardson Rd. It was a nice ending to an eventful afternoon and evening.

It was pleasant to hike later in the day; I usually start in the morning. The downside was being so wound up when I got home that I was late to bed and had trouble getting to sleep.

 
The O'Malley peaks and ridge glow in the bright evening sun.

I hiked a total of 12 miles in about 5 hours, including talking to people, eating snacks, watching wildlife, taking photos, and gawking at interesting scenery.

My GPS said the low point was 1,780 feet (first creek) and highest was 2,476 feet at the lakes, below Mount Williwaw, which rises to 5,545 feet at its peak. Total elevation gain and loss was 3,122 feet but all of it was gradual.

I highly recommend this hike on a pretty summer or fall day. In late spring or early summer when the snow is melting there is probably a lot of water on the trail in the valley and near the lakes.

This trail is open to skiers in the winter. No bikes are permitted on the trail. It's a good trail for dogs because of all the creeks and lakes.

Next entryLittle O'Malley Peak hike

Happy trails,

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

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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