Archive for October, 2007

Denali National Park, AK

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

date hiked: August 2-3, 2007
distance: 20 miles
highest elevation: unknown
elevation gain: unknown
time: unknown

Denali was our last stop while we were in Alaska. It turned out to be a perfect final destination. I left Denali, and in turn Alaska feeling like I had just met a new person that I hoped would be my friend. It felt like only a brief introduction…and I know I want more.

Denali National Park is the only National Park (that I am aware of) that is only accessible by a gravel road running 45 miles into the park (the first 15 miles is paved). Private vehicles are only allowed to drive the first 15 miles of the park road. If you want to explore deeper into the park, you will (most likely) take one of the infamous green shuttle buses.

Green Denali Bus

You may get on and off the shuttle bus as often as you wish. You don’t have to reboard the same bus, you can just flag another bus down and if there is room they will pick you up. Tyler and I randomly hiked about 20 miles of Denali in this fashion. Get off the bus, hike find another bus, ride to someplace new, hike some more.

Tyler in Denali

Of course, Mt. McKinley is a main reason people travel to Denali. We read that the mountain (which locals call Mt. Denali) is only visible 20% of the time during the summer months. We had also met a couple in our hotel in Anchorage that had seen the mountain the day before we were heading there. We figured the odds were not in our favor. Apparently, Mt. Denali creates it’s own weather so even on a clear day, it could be surrounded by clouds. In fact, that’s exactly what it was like. However, we were lucky enough to see bits and pieces of her. For a brief time, she was almost completely visible. Too bad we were so far away. It was amazing.

Mt. Denali

We saw lots and lots of wildlife. Caribou, red fox, artic squirrels, and moose were some of the wildlife we encountered.

Caribou

Red Fox

Just after seeing the fox, on the way out of the park, we were on the shuttle bus and we had reached the paved road. In 15 miles, our Denali experience would be over. The bus came to a stop and the driver said, “Everyone quietly look in the road ahead of the bus.” There, strolling down the road, was a mama brown bear and her two cubs.

Bear

All I could do was laugh.

The next day we boarded a plane in Anchorage for our flight home to Seattle (we drove from Seattle to Portland.)

Kenai Fjords National Park

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Date Visited: August 1, 2007

We took an 8 hour boat trip to explore Kenai Fjords National Park. Once again, I was the land of the glorious whale. It’s quite pathetic. Most of the time, my social inequity is quietly accepted on the inside. I recognize my ineptitude. I just don’t shout it from the rooftops.

Yet, post after post, my silly whale-obsessing, bear-fearing self is making it clear. Luckily, the one or two friends I have, know I’m not a secret whale-stalker.

So, on this lovely boat ride, we were entertained by orcas. A large pod seemed to hang around the boat forever. They all seemed to be curious. Who knows?

Orca

We also came across a group of sea otter. They seemed to be waving.

sea otter

There was also a group of Steller Sea Lions sunning on a rock. The Steller Sea Lion was listed (and still is) as an endangered species in 1990.

Steller Sia Lions

What most would consider the highlight of the ride…are the glaciers.

Glacier

Indian Valley Mine

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Tyler panning

July 31, 2007

You can’t explore Alaskan history without visiting a gold mine and panning for gold. The Indian Valley Mine is about 20 minutes south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway. It was fun. Tyler would like to be rich from his flakes of found gold.

Indian Valley Trail – Chugach State Park, Anchorage, AK

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

date hiked: July 31, 2007
distance: 6 miles
highest elevation: 2350 feet
elevation gain: 2000
time: approximately 3.5 hours

Indian Valley

Okay, the truth is…I don’t remember anything to write about this trail. I wrote in my journal that there weren’t any cars at the trailhead, it was wet, not raining, and I was still very terrified of running into bear.

It’s pretty though, isn’t it?

Beluga Point – Chugach State Park, Anchorage, AK

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Obviously, I’m way behind on posting. So, I’m going to try to catch up a bit.

Beluga Point

July 31, 2007

The Turnagain Arm Trail is a 9.4 mile (one-way) trail that runs along Seward Highway about 10 miles south of Anchorage. The trail has four trailheads that break it into three sections. One of the sections, McHugh Creek – Rainbow descends (if desired) to Beluga Point.

Seeing as I have a not-so-secret obsession with all things watery, the idea of seeing a beluga whale was exciting. The beluga whales follow the salmon into the shallow waters at the point. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any.

We did find an amazingly strong wind. Tyler and I had to work hard to stand. We found shelter in the trees for a few moments, watching the water, reflecting.

Tyler and I at Beluga Pt

Driving the Alaskan Backcountry

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

July 29 – 31, 2007

We put the rental car on a ferry from Juneau to Haines and drove through the Yukon territory to make our way to Anchorage. We crossed the Canadian/U.S. border (twice). It was hard to imagine what the landscape might look like during the winter. It was so beautiful and seemed suited for the bright greens. There was water everywhere. I later learned these were called kettles, water-filled pits left behind by retreating glaciers. Tyler and I were fascinated by the “drunken forests”. The black spruce trees are crooked due to the shallow root sytem in the permafrost. We initially thought some trees were toppling over until we read about the black spruce tree’s ability to survive and thrive in the harsh winter. They only look like they’re falling over. According to local lore, most Hollywood movies that are supposedly located in Alaska are actually filmed in British Columbia…because the black spruce tree doesn’t make for an attractive landscape.

Tyler and I disagree.

Backcountry AK

The rivers were also amazing. They seemed massive. We drove along the Copper River.

Copper River

We also came across a number of glaciers. And the meadows of flowers were gorgeous.

Backcountry