I can vouch for the impressive, panoramic views from Thorofare Ridge on
clear or mostly-clear days when it feels like you can reach out and
touch Denali, "The High One."
I was just waiting for a sunny day to do this hike again, my fourth
time up the ridge across from the Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66 on
the park road. I enjoyed the views so much the three times I climbed up
and explored the ridge in 2012 that I was eager to do it again on this
year's trip to Alaska.
And I did! This is me on top of
the ridge today, with Denali in the background.
This morning's clear weather was perfect for my shuttle bus ride,
this alpine hike, and Jim's bike ride out from Tek to Sable Pass. We
both had marvelous views of Denali until about 1 PM, when the inevitable
afternoon clouds gathered around Denali and nearby peaks.
That made my second hike less impressive at Wonder Lake in the
afternoon but it was still fun to walk somewhere new.
Here's a map of where we both went today. My bus ride is in yellow,
Jim's bike ride in green:
Because of the fantastic weather this morning, I took tons of photos
and Jim even took some on his bike ride.
Most of them are better than the pics I shared in yesterday's entry so this
four-page entry contains more pages to showcase the beautiful sunny views we saw.
Many visitors never get a good view of Denali because it's completely
or partially hidden under clouds. This is what they're missing!
PHOTOS FROM THE SHUTTLE BUS RIDE TO EIELSON
We knew today was supposed to be mostly sunny so Jim and I planned
our activities accordingly.
My goal was to get out to Eielson (Mile 66) early enough to hike up
the ridge, wander around, and get back down before Tim's Kantishna bus
arrived about 12:30. If the mountain was still visible then, I
wanted to ride out another 20+ miles on his bus to the north end of
Wonder Lake (about Mile 88) and do some hiking there before he came back
from Kantishna at Mile 92.
Early morning view of Teklanika
River from the shuttle bus stop just past our campground
My first good view of Denali from
the bus this morning
It worked! Only problem was not being able to see Denali clearly in
the afternoon from the Wonder Lake perspective. (Mountains look
different from different sides.)
This was my first of two "free" Tek Pass rides
on the shuttle buses.
I explained in an earlier entry this terrific
perk for folks staying at the Teklanika AKA "Tek" River Campground --
pay for one bus ride between Miles 29 and 92 in the park, then get
subsequent rides at no extra cost on a space-available basis for as long
as they have a reservation at Tek. We're at Tek three full days = three
bus rides for each of us (Jim opted out). If folks stay longer, they can
do more "free" rides. What a deal!
the Polychrome Glacier - East Fork Toklat River area
Arrow marks a little caribou at the side of the
Young caribou in fireweeds
Yesterday I used my original Tek Pass
reservation to go all the way to the end of the park road to Kantishna,
an old mining community, at Mile 92. Today I could ride any shuttle bus
outbound from Tek for as far as I wanted as long as it had room for me
when it got to Tek this morning.
I got ready early and went out to the bus stop at the campground
entrance. I was able to get on the first Eielson bus at 7:10 AM.
I knew I'd have a decent chance of catching one of the early Eielson
buses because there are more shuttles going there from the park entrance
than any other destination, and many folks aren't keen on boarding at
the park entrance as early as the first buses leave (about 6 AM).
The high road ahead (Polychrome area)
Above and below: views south to Polychrome glaciers and
E. Toklat drainage area
from the hill above the rest stop; bus drivers allow time to take
a quick hike up this trail.
View southwest from the Polychrome trail
There were a few seats left, including the aisle seat in the second row
behind the driver. I like being near the front so I asked the smiling
young woman sitting by the window if I could join her. She's from
northern MN and asked me lots of questions about hiking off-trail in the
tundra after I told her about the interesting Discovery Hike I did
several days ago.
My ability to take photos was more limited in that aisle seat so I moved when
we got to Polychrome Pass. The guy occupying the whole seat in front of
me (right behind the driver) got out to hike and I took his place till
we got to Eielson. I was able to get a few more photos from that window:
Above and below: the next glimpse of Denali;
both the north (R) and south peaks are visible
in these shots -- while the bus was moving -- between
the Polychrome and Toklat rest stops.
The upper slopes on Denali's NE side are visible across the
broad Toklat riverbed
near the Toklat rest area; the configuration of the two
peaks is very recognizable.
One of the best views of Denali is from Stony Hill, a few miles east of
Eielson. That's where I got my favorite shots of the mountain three
years ago, including the photo that heads every page of this year's
The next pictures are from the approach to Stony Hill and from that
vantage point after the bus stopped for a few minutes so passengers
could take photos:
In transit on the way toward Stony Hill
View of Denali and the park road from the
observation point on Stony Hill ~ Mile 61
The wispy, vertical clouds look like exclamation
points to the wonder of Denali.
The 2015 photo at the
top of this page that I took three years ago is still my favorite, though.
When we arrived at Eielson I talked to the dispatcher about taking Tim's
Kantisha bus west and took a few pictures of Denali before heading up to
Thorofare Ridge. You can see clouds forming behind the mountain already
but the view of Denali was still better than what many people see:
Footpath in foreground goes down to the broad
Fun view of Denali from grassy rooftop of
earth-sheltered Eielson Visitor Center
Zooming in just a bit
Dontcha just want to get out there and climb that
thing?? I do!
visiting Denali NP and want to maximize your chances of seeing Denali
when it's "out" (i.e., visible), take one of the early buses.
Don't get too
discouraged if it's cloudy or raining near the entrance; it may
well be sunny 66 miles into the park. Like other mountainous
regions in North America, the weather is very localized here.
Continued on the next page: photos from my Eielson
alpine hike on Thorofare Ridge (lots more pictures of Denali)
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the
ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil