Continued from the
LEAVE NO TRACE -- AND DON'T MAKE A NEW TRAIL!
We got off our bus a little before Stony Creek (next photo) and Ranger Julie talked
with us several minutes about minimizing our impact on the environment.
In addition to the obvious Leave No Trace principles, Julie advised us
to avoid following in anyone else's footsteps
so no visible trails would be established.
Julie also showed us the emergency supplies and equipment in her large
backpack, including a satellite radio and medical stuff, and talked
about bear safety:
Like most of the interpretive rangers, Julie is young (mid-20s). This is
her first summer at Denali. In the winter she works at the elk refuge
near Jackson Hole, WY. She is personable and has done her homework re:
Denali. Before we got going everyone
introduced themselves. Five of us were fit retirees and five were fit
After a short patch of shrubs we were into the tundra the rest of the
way up the slopes. There were several false summits and lots of ups and
downs on the ridges and passes between each high point.
An early look back toward the park road to the east
Following an undulating ridge between two
On one part of the ridge with steep slopes on
either side (middle of photo)
we had no choice but to walk on a trail that had
already been made.
The footing was pretty good. When we came to a faint social trail made by
previous hikers or big game animals, we were instructed to walk to the
sides in the tundra plants, if possible.
In most any other park with trails, we'd be admonished to remain on the
trail and not make new ones.
At Denali there are few established trails. Hikers here are encouraged to hike
through the brush and tundra virtually anywhere, which is a very
different concept. The exception is to stay out of areas closed
periodically for nesting or fledging birds, grizzly kills, or other
biological reasons for the safety of visitors and wildlife.
LUNCH WITH A VIEW -- AND A SURPRISE!
Before we reached our highest point Julie suggested we take a break for
lunch on a grassy slope with excellent views to the upper Stony Creek
drainage to the south and the mountains to the west.
All of a sudden an
observant hiker with binoculars noticed some movement on the ridge to
Soon we were all able
to see with our eyes (or camera zoom lenses) a
large herd of caribou make its way over the ridge and down to Stony
Creek, where approximately three dozen of them
disappeared behind the next ridge to the south that we'd be climbing:
Then a smaller group of about fifteen caribou did the same thing.
We were in awe of
this spectacle and sat watching them for about 15 minutes.
We were all a bit disappointed prior to this because the only wildlife
we had seen from the bus this morning were two caribou and a bunch of
ground squirrels. We made up for it during and after the hike.
UP & DOWN
After our lunch break we continued
along the ridge to our highest point of the hike, with grand views in
View south, upstream in the Stony Creek drainage;
we could see several
of the caribou in the wet meadow below this
View east; the park road is barely discernable in
Looking NW: we dropped down to the wide creek
bed and followed it back to the road.
We started at 3,843 feet and topped out at 4,572 feet. I forgot to turn
on my GPS after our lunch break and missed about 1/2 mile of ascent to
the final high point. Descent was 3,250 feet so my total gain/loss was about
6,500 feet in about 3.5 miles.
NORTH OR SOUTH?
Before our Disco hiking group turned back toward the park road Ranger
Julie gave us options. Four of the hikers decided to continue farther
south up the canyon before turning around.
The rest of us headed west, then north, descending to
Stony Creek so we could walk back through
the wide gravel bars to the park road:
Part way down the slope three adult caribou and two calves climbed up quite
close to our group and we were able to get some better pictures of them:
Above and below: These caribou are shedding
more than the ones I saw along the park road today.
We continued working our way down the mountainside to the creek bed:
As soon as I got down in the gravel I noticed a lone caribou feeding
downstream. I don't think it was in either large herd we saw earlier.
When we crossed the shallow, narrow channel with water, I didn't even
hesitate. One young man (below) also quickly waded across. After a
lifetime of running and hiking on trails I'm used to
crossing water much deeper than that in the Merrill Moab Ventilator running
shoes I wear when hiking.
Just do it! Your shoes will dry . . .
Everyone else tried to find a way (unsuccessfully) to
get across without getting their hiking boots wet. It was like watching newbies at trail
runs when they do their utmost to avoid puddles, mud, or creek
crossings. We'd been warned that these hikes usually include stream
crossings so the participants should have known to wear footwear that
can get wet or bring a separate pair in their pack, as the park website
After everyone got across the water we followed the scenic creek bed
back to the park road for about a mile:
View upstream from the creek bed
Above and below: views north toward the road
This hike was rated as "strenuous." I guess to many folks it is. To me
it was moderate, even with my Granny Knees. I enjoyed it a lot. The
weather was great (40s to 60s F. again), the views and company were
nice, we saw lots of flowers, and I got to do something new.
It was well worth a $35 bus ticket.
spent time inspecting a wide variety of wildflowers during the hike. At
the end of this series of entries from Denali NP I'll include one with
photos of a couple dozen different wildflowers blooming in the park at
this time of year. That's one reason I wanted to visit the park earlier
in the summer than we did three years ago.
Continued on the
page: more photos from the ride to Eielson, then the ride
back to the park entrance (includes some grizzly pictures, and closer
views of caribou)
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil