Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


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Continued from the previous page.


The rock "spine" ends about a mile into the hike.

The narrow, sometimes rocky, trail gradually climbs through open tundra and arcs north and east as it contours along the broad slope of an unnamed mountain and one of its ridges:


View SW to the rocks we climbed through, the river, and the Alaska Range

There are some rocks on the trail but most of it is pretty smooth through the tundra.



Looking back again

The trail descends south along a ridge to a rocky promontory, then turns sharply east again across another slope:



That's about two miles into the loop, going clockwise. The trail is smoother from here to the end, a distance of about 2.6 more miles.


We took our time today (3:15 hours + rest stops for 4.6 miles). Jim isn't trained as well for mountain hiking as I am. He's been focusing on cycling and is much stronger on a bike than I am. I was glad to have the time to take photos; I found plenty of interesting subjects!

We sat on a rock about a mile into the hike to eat our sandwiches. We also sat on a grassy slope about halfway through the hike for about 15 minutes when it looked like Denali might show itself:



Alas, we never did see the north or south peaks, just the lower slopes you can see below the arrow in the picture above.

Sure glad we've seen Denali a number of times on previous trips to the park. Many visitors never get to see any of the mountain because it's so often covered in clouds.

I was afraid the hike wouldn't be as interesting/scenic as it was in July, when the fireweeds and other wildflowers were in bloom in the next section of the trail. However, the red stems of the fireweeds were pretty today against the snow-topped mountains where the trail begins to switchback down the drainage it follows to the road:



The tundra hasn't turned as bright red as it'll be in another week but we did see some yellow, orange, and red leaves close up and there's lots of dull red in the long-distance views I've shown.

What made the scenery really pop today was the blue sky behind the fresh white snow at about the 4,500' level (we got up to 4,100+ feet). The snowy mountains on the north side of the park road really stood out.

Continuing down the mountain along the drainage . . . The photos looking back (north) are better than those going forward because we were facing the sun going down toward the road:




We saw about twenty other hikers going one way or the other, most of them in this section.

One older man we talked with lives in Homer, Alaska in the summer -- and the southern Ukraine in the winter! He's not even Russian. He said it's warmer there than it sounds. That's an interesting twist on "snow-birding."


Volunteers were working on these bog boards when I walked through here in July.

The last half mile is down in the trees, with the creek close by:



I saw lots of interesting mushrooms in the forest in the last quarter mile, including these:

These look like hot buttered dinner rolls fresh from the oven!

Above and below:  These are the arrangements as I found them.  I don't try to "improve" upon Nature.

When we got down to the path that parallels the road near the Savage River Campground we saw this sign warning hikers/campers about both black and grizzly (brown) bears in the area:

Unfortunately, we didn't see any bears, moose, caribous, sheep, or other big critters on this hike or along the road or riverbed today.

The only wildlife we saw were birds, friendly arctic ground squirrels, and chubby pikas. Pikas are hard to photograph but the squirrels always seem fearless and pose nicely to get their pictures taken -- hoping for some food, of course:

Our total distance hiking was a little over 4.6 miles.

Today my GPS said the elevations ranged from a low of 2,426 feet at the river trailhead to 4,105 feet at the highest point. The finish at the truck was 2,782 feet. Total elevation gain = 1,720 feet, loss = 1,364 feet. (My GPS has a little different numbers every time I repeat a course.)

I was happy that Jim really enjoyed this hike. Because of the bum knee he injured several years ago he is very choosy about what hikes he does. This one was just the right distance and the scenery made his effort worth it.

View from the park road to Nenana Canyon on our way back to the campground

We got some additional exercise today to keep the pups happy and healthy since they can't hike with us on park trails.

I did another couple miles walking them in the campground throughout the day. Jim also rode Casey with the bike for 4.5 miles to Nenana Canyon and back, and let her swim in the pond by a motel where he's taken her before. He throws mini Milk Bones in the water for her to retrieve, an activity she likes as much as chasing tennis balls or sticks.

Every day after our breakfast and supper she starts "talking" (whining!) to Jim, wanting to go run and/or play ball. Cody can "tell time," too, but his focus is on his second meal of the day. He's always lobbying for his 3 PM meal by 1 PM, regardless of what time he eats breakfast.

Next entrytravel adjustments due to weather and wildfire considerations (or maybe we're just "fickle")

Happy trails,

"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