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Green Point (Unit 18) Over Muldrow Glacier (Unit 19)- Day 5

Green Point (Unit 18) Over Muldrow Glacier to Unit 19

Mileage- 3.9 miles

Elevation Gain- ~500 feet

Elevation Loss- ~500 feet

Day 5 Denali

Day 5 Denali 2

Crossing the non-technical Muldrow Glacier on our fifth day in Denali National Park was one of the toughest days of our seven.  We had been told at the Backcountry Office that the hike was a relatively easy hike that would take about three hours to cross.  There was a somewhat visible land bridge that connects Unit 18 to Unit 19 via the Muldrow Glacier.  When looking down on the Glacier it looks like a river of pulverized black volcanic rock.  In many respects, it does not look like your textbook glacier.  But it is glorious nonetheless.  But before crossing the glacier we needed to locate fresh water to pump.  Everything we had seen in our camping area was silty glacial melt and un-pumpable.  Fortunately we located a stream from snow melt that ran within a couple hundred yards of our camp.

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We really didn’t follow good logic on our first pass of the Muldrow Glacier.  Of course we would get another chance the next days as we passed back over, but for this day we made some errors crossing.  Not that any of the errors were really bad, because they weren’t, it is just that we took a longer route than what was necessary.  I guess the upside is that we got a more scenic route, but even with as much experience as we have in the backcountry I am still surprised that we make silly mistakes.  The issue was that, despite having a pretty good game plan for crossing, once we got down in the glacier it was difficult to see our end destination.  Being that there is no such thing as a straight line in the glacier and being that there were more obstacles than you could shake a stick at… we inevitably got off track and took a less direct route to the other side.

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The difficult terrain was degraded because of the predictable Alaskan rain showers.  I hate to admit it… but out of the seven days in the Denali backcountry… this day pushed me very close to my limit.  I think I missed lunch on this day and the hike was longer and harder than I expected it to be.  Add the rain and a cold day on top of it… and I was a bit cranky.  I really regret letting it get to me.  On the bright side… I ate TWO suppers once we made it to the other side!  I was one happy camper for sure.

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Ok… well… we all ate TWO DINNERS that day!

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The beauty of Unit 19 was that once the clouds passed we could tell that it was going to be a really special place to camp (you will see this in the Day 6 post).  This is the kind of place that really makes you feel like you are out of civilization… just you and nature.  This is the place that makes you feel wild and free among the elements.  You feel so alive.  If you are reading this post and sitting on the fence about whether you should go outside and explore… make up your mind with a “yes” and do it.  You have one life.  Live it.

On Day 6 we will be crossing the Muldrow Glacier (more directly this time) and into a canyon area just south of Mt. Eielson in Unit 13.

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Grassy Pass to Green Point (Unit 18)- Day 4

Grassy Pass to Green Point (Unit 18)

Mileage- 4.9 miles

Elevation Gain- 0 feet

Elevation Loss- ~300 feet

Day 4 Denali NP 2 Day 4 Denali NP

It was our fourth day and we had just finished our first loop that took us through Stony Creek, Bear Draw, and along the Toklat River to the Toklat Rest Area.  Our day was not finished as we would board a green passenger bus and head west passed Eielson Visitor Center to a place known as Grassy Pass.  This would be the beginning our next 4-day adventure that would take us across the Muldrow Glacier and back, up Mt. Eielson, and then back to the Eielson Visitor Center.

Hiking from Grassy Pass down to the gravel bed was rough.  While there was a “social” trail that we followed, it didn’t seem very social.  It was wildly overgrown and with every step each of our boots were completely submerged in thick mud.  That pretty much sums up each day in Denali.  When you thought that there might be something easy, Alaska always had the last laugh.  There wasn’t anything easy during our week of backpacking.  It was hard and tested each of us mentally- Could we continue to deal with and endure the rain, the cold, the wet feet, the exhausting brush, and every other obstacle thrown our way?  Of course we could.  But it would take some serious mental victories.

Walking across this gravel bar was interesting to say the least.  We spotted some caribou in the distance, as they were grazing and eating.  They hardly noticed us as we were within 60 yards, but then they began to clear out.  Further ahead we saw more caribou (the women and children) also clearing out and heading counter-clockwise and heading in the distance to our left.  As we continued to walk we noticed two male caribou to our two o’clock position probably a quarter mile away.  One of them went clockwise circling around us to our right and then behind us in the distance.  The other caribou stayed directly in front of us… and began aggressively hammering his front hooves as a warning.  There were two problems. The first is that it was rutting season and the males were extra aggressive.  The second was that we needed to go exactly where that caribou was standing.  We were like, “Come on caribou.  Can’t anything be easy here.  Just move along and leave us alone.”  We were forced to swing left a bit to create more distance, but it didn’t seem to matter as the caribou began charging us.  Fortunately the distance between us was still appropriate and it was just warning us… but we picked up a few big rocks that we were ready to chuck if it got any closer.  It finally cleared out in the brush, but it was still in the area we needed to travel.  As we crossed the Thoroughfare River we went through the brush which opened up into a corridor.  Guess who was standing 100 yards away staring at us?  Yup.  He began to charge again… but we started whopping and hollering until he finally cleared out.  We finally saw him in the distance with his bride.  Just protecting his lady.

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For the remainder of the day we would follow Glacier Creek.  For pumping purposes, we had to be diligent with locating clean water sources.  While there were many creeks and rivers, they were mostly glacial melt and incredibly silty.  The silt can easily destroy water filters.  Fortunately for us with a little searching we found some clean water streams that came from snow melt on top of the mountains.  More on that with the next post.  The sun was finally beginning to break through the clouds and we found a nice grassy patch to lay out all of our wet gear for a quick dry.  I LOVE THOSE MOMENTS!

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We continued to hike along Glacier Creek for a couple of miles until everything began to open up.  We set up the tents on a large gravel bar in a beautiful spot with Glacier Creek and mountains all around us.  Just a very short hike up a hill to our west, we could see the Muldrow Glacier and the route we would be taking the next day as we crossed it.

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The Muldrow Glacier, while looking like a short, non-technical hike to the other side, is quite deceiving.  On Day 5 it would take us 4.5 hours, as we got off track and did not take the most direct route, and on Day 6 it took us 3 hours.  As we settled down into Unit 18 for the night we knew that traveling to Unit 19 would be a bit challenging.

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Unit 32 (Toklat River) to Toklat River Rest Area- Day 4

Toklat River (Unit 32) to Toklat River Rest Area

Mileage- 3.4 miles

Elevation Gain- 0

Elevation Loss- 0

Denali NP Day 4 Denali Day 4

We started Day 4 camped on the river bed of the Toklat River in Denali National Park.  Our goal for the day was to backpack to the Toklat River Rest Area, where we would catch a green park bus, and travel to this area west of Eielson Visitor Center called Grassy Pass.  We would then backpack to Unit 18, but more on that in the next post.

Our fourth morning started much like it ended the previous day- rainy.  It was overcast with a misting rain.  We knew that the prospects of staying dry the first half of the day were going to be slim.  Our 3.4 mile hike to the Toklat River Rest Area was riddled with an obstacle course of the braided Toklat.  It wasn’t as easy as picking a side and then walking along the dry river bed.  The Toklat braided from far side to far side.  A person was left with two choices- either do a dozen or so river crossing of various depths – or- go back into the dense brush and bushwhack for 3.4 miles.  We were none to eager to get back into the brush so we prepared for a morning of crossings.

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It is easy to underestimate river crossings.  A person could easily approach a crossing with an unhealthy over-confidence and pay the price with a mistake.  If you have been a regular reader of this blog you will know that we are extremely cautious and conservative when it comes to safety.  All it takes is a split second to be careless or unfocused and it could mean serious injury or death.  When it comes to river crossings a group should work together to consider all possible routes.  Obviously going with the most shallow and slow-moving is preferred, but that is not always possible.  For us there were times when a deep, fast-moving stretch would Y and make a crossing a bit easier.  The truth is that it doesn’t take very deep water to get swept off of your feet, especially when it is fast moving.  The best approach to crossing is to face upstream, lean forward, and cross diagonally to the other side using your trekking poles for extra support.

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The rest area was within sight we had one crossing that remained… and as much as we studied and tried to consider other routes… there were no other options.  This crossing was thigh high and fast-moving.  Fiesbeck got in by himself initially to see if it was possible and quickly got out.  The current was so strong that he began to be lifted off of his feet.  He said that he even felt large rocks going passed his legs.  We discussed as a group and decided that we would do a four man conga line.  We lined up, held onto the man in front of us, and went for it with Fiesbeck forging the way.  We made it with no issue whatsoever.  The only drawback is that we didn’t get a picture.

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We arrived at the Toklat River Rest Area just before noon and waited for a westward traveling green bus to take us to our next destination.  We would be backpacking across the Muldrow Glacier and then summiting Mt. Eielson to finish our trip.

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Unit 39 (Stony Creek) to Unit 32 (Toklat River)- Day 3

Hike from Unit 39 (Stony Creek) to Unit 32 (Toklat River)

Mileage – ~7.5 miles

Elevation Gain- ~500 feet

Elevation Loss- ~500 feet Denali Day 3 NG Denali Day 3 This was our toughest day by far… and we had a feeling that it was going to be.  We knew that the terrain was going to be challenging.  The Unit 39 description on the Denali National Park website states that the route south of Mt. Sheldon to the Toklat River is “gentle but brushy in sections.”  Let’s put an emphasis on “brushy.”  Our immediate challenge, besides the overcast, rainy skies and cool temperatures, was a mix on dense pine trees, tussock tundra, and knee high scrub.  Within eyeshot we could see the saddle over which we would be passing just south of Mt. Sheldon.  The rule when backpacking without trails and only using topographical maps is to know the direction of your end point and then to identify more immediate visual goals that keep you in line with your end point.  By identifying the next goal before proceeding it allows you to stay on track even when you are diverted because of an obstacle.  This was essential for us on this particular day, but even more so on days 5 and 6 when crossing the Muldrow Glacier. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_3418 IMG_3419 After breaking out of the brushy stuff our hike was up a couple of hundred gently sloping feet to the Mt. Sheldon saddle.  Don’t worry… as wet, cold, and ticked as I look in the picture below… it wasn’t long after that moment that I said to the guys, “On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most amazing time of my life… this is an 11!”  Believe me… as difficult as this day was physically… it beats almost anything else you could be doing in your regular, boring life.  Which reminds me, about 90% of backpacking is mental.  Having a negative, pessimistic, and defeated attitude can break even the most physically trained athlete.  That is why I love backpacking so much- It teaches you so much about life and how to endure and press on… even when you are in the most difficult situation. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_3421 Our view once we made it to the saddle was… well… disappointing.  More brush.  And more dense brush.  And more rain.  And more wind.  Just over the saddle was a perfect spot for a snack.  I believe that it was at this point that Patrick noted how there is absolutely no place to escape the wind and rain.  No tall trees.  No caves or overhangs.  Just you and the wind and the rain.  So you may as well decide to laugh and love it. IMG_3423 IMG_3429 IMG_3431 At one point we thought that we hit the jackpot by finding a dry creek bed to follow but it was short-lived. We reentered the brush and soon enough approached a marshy area with a couple of small ponds where we took another break. IMG_3433 IMG_3434 IMG_3438 IMG_3439 IMG_3443 It was at this point that we had to make a decision about our route. We were within eyeshot of Sheldon Creek and wondered if the most efficient route to Toklat would be following the creek. After weighing the options, including the distance to get to the creek and then fighting the dense Alders for a mile, we decided to stay with our current route across the tussock tundra, however we would have to fight the Alders occasionally. For any of you who think I have been exaggerating about the difficult conditions, here is a beautiful video illustration of how it really was.

As we were just above the final tree line before making our final descent down to the Toklat, the clouds began to break up and the sun began to peek through. It made for some sweet shots before tackling the roughest patch of this hike called Bear Draw. The trees and brush were so dense that it was almost too difficult to get through. Occasionally we would find a moose trail and follow it for a while before it trailed off to a dead end… and then it was bushwhacking. It seemed as if we would never make it to the bottom. I was growing increasingly weary, but just as I had a thought of stopping we popped right out onto the gravel bar. I can’t think of many trips in which I felt a greater sense of accomplishment than this particular day. It was long. It was hard. It was wet and cold. I immediately began to strip off all of my clothes, just standing in my underwear trying to dry off. The sun felt great. Well, it felt great for 20 minutes… and then began to rain on us the rest of the evening. IMG_3445 IMG_3449 IMG_3450 IMG_3460 IMG_3463 IMG_3471 IMG_3473 IMG_3474 IMG_3475 IMG_3476 IMG_3477 IMG_3480 IMG_3482 In my next post I will talk about Day 4- hiking down the Toklat to the Toklat Rest Area where we would catch the green bus and then beginning our next hike in Units 18, 19, and 13.

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Unit 39/33 Day Hike (Denali National Park)- Day 2

Day Hike from Unit 39 Campsite up the mountains northeast of Mt. Galen in Unit 33

Mileage – 3.5 miles

Elevation Gain- Approximately 1800 feet

Elevation Loss- Approximately 1800 feet

Denali Day 2 NG

Denali Day 2

I was super excited for Day 2 in Denali National Park, as we would do something that we had never previously done on any of our backpacking trip… take a day hike in Units 39 and into Unit 33. In every other instance we had always packed up at the break of dawn and set out for another destination.  On this day we purposefully set up our permit so that we could keep our tents set up for another day in Unit 39 and just day hike without any significant weight on our backs.  Unit 39 is big enough, in and of itself, for several days of backpacking.  Even a day of day hiking would barely scratch the surface.

Mt. Galen is located in Unit 33 and is a part of the mountains that we were going to climb.  As with every other day in Denali, there were no trails… so we began formulating our route. As a side note, we knew that climbing close to 2000 feet would give us the opportunity to see what route we would take on the morning of Day 4 passed Mt. Sheldon and through the rough Bear Draw.  But Bear Draw would be equally as rough and demanding as the first 200 feet of our day hike.  Before we could get into an area where we could actually begin “hiking,” we had to go near vertical through some of the most dense brush and trees that we encounter on this trip.  The only way we could scale this mountainside was to dig our feet in and pull ourselves up by grabbing trees.  Fortunately this only last about 30 minutes.  Needless to say, we didn’t get any pictures of that adventure.

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Other than the first two hundred, this was a remarkable hike.  The views, as we were ascending, of the river valley and the mountain ranges were spectacular (you can even see our tents amidst the scrub)… not to mention that we had the perfect August weather- mid 50’s and cool with sun and blue skies.  It is always interesting looking at the terrain from a distance compared to being in that exact terrain.  What I mean by that is from a distance the terrain looks so contoured, pillowy, smooth, and gentle.  It gives you the impression that you can just glide over it without any obstacles or resistance.  And then, once you are in the areas you once viewed as pillowy and gentle, you realize how coarse, rough, hard, and full of resistance and obstacles it actually is.  In many ways, it’s beauty can give one a false sense invincibility- we are the conquerors!  And it welcomes and seduces our naiveté and allows us to believe that we are in control even but for a moment, and then wakes us to our fragile and humble reality that while she is beautiful… she will never be conquered.

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It seems as if with every step we could see even more of Denali. Soon enough we were at the height at which we could see Mt. Galen and the other adjoining mountains.  The diversity of terrain was spectacular.  Not just the composition, but the colors.

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We took a long lunch break at the top. I am convinced that place was constructed for relaxing. Soon enough the afternoon storm clouds began to approach RAPIDLY and we decided to descend and stay ahead of it. Well, we just weren’t that fast. We decided that since we were going to be wet anyway that we might as well stop for a much needed blueberry break.

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We got back to camp with overcast skies and rain the rest of the evening. We actually turned in early because of the rain, but we also knew that our hardest day was yet to come. We would be passing through Bear Draw and down to the Toklat River.

To read about our previous days in Denali National Park click here.

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Unit 39 Stony Creek (Denali National Park)- Day 1

Stony Creek Bridge Park Road (Unit 33) to Unit 39 Stony Creek

Mileage- 7.6 miles

Elevation Gain- minimal

Elevation Loss- minimal

Denali Day 1 NG Denali Day 1

The day before beginning our seven days in the backcountry of Denali we secured our backcountry permit, picked up our complimentary bear can, and scheduled our transportation to our drop-off point. The park really makes the entire process seamless and painless, but we came in with a game plan as well, and that helped. In terms of the transportation, the easiest way to get to your drop off destination is to get a ticket for one of the green school busses designated for campers. This can be done at the Wilderness Access Center. For my ticket it was about $35, I think. The rate varies based on how far you plan to travel into the park. You can find more information about the shuttle here. Our ticket has us being picked up at 6:50am at Riley Campground. We were able to park our car in a designated area for backpackers next to the shuttle pick-up at Riley. All of this was very easy and I was even able to pick up a cup of Starbucks that morning at the Wilderness Access Center. The shuttle ride was over three hours to the Stony Creek bridge. It wasn’t an official stop for the bus, but the drivers are cool with dropping you off wherever you need to go. We exited, grabbed our packs out of the back of the bus, and began to gear up.

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One of the most unbelievable moments of the trip happened within the first seven minutes.  Three of us headed down a gravel bar, while the other guy took a small detour up a little ridge.  We were still very close to each other but separated by ten feet of thick brush.  We were all heading to the same point- the small ridge and gravel bar eventually would converge.  As we were walking the gravel bar… a grizzly walked out of the brush just to our right.  It stopped 60 feet directly in front of us.  We did everything by the text book.  We stopped, began backing up slowly with our bear spray in hand, and talking gently to the bear.  While Patrick Fosdick and I were preoccupied with our cans of bear spray, Josh Brown somehow was able to snap a low quality photo of it.  Until just the other day, I did not know anyone got a picture of it. 10441139_10152370287352572_8794405871893094599_n

The only problem with this situation was that Kevin Fiesbeck was on the other side of the brush to the left… and did not know that a bear was heading his direction.  We were not sure what to do.  We didn’t want to make a ton of noise to startle the bear, but we wanted to alert him.  Also, even if he heard us would he believe that a bear was REALLY heading at him with the first five minutes of the trip?  We joke around so much with each other that there was no way he would believe us.  The other problem was that the lady from whom we bought the bear spray shamed us into buying two cans of spray rather than four.  Well, guess who didn’t have any spray?  By the time we caught up with the pale white Fiesbeck he told us that the grizzly came out of the brush and stood five feet in front of him and just stared at him.  Not sure if he peed his pants, but he got the scare of his life.  Anyway, the lessons were learned even for four guys who has a ton of backcountry experience: 1. Just because you are AT THE BEGINNING of your hike… it doesn’t mean that there isn’t danger right around the corner. 2. Just because you are AT THE BEGINNING of your hike… it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be calling out for bears and making noise. 3. Just because you are AT THE BEGINNING of your hike… it doesn’t mean that you should be careless and not stick together. We didn’t make any more mistakes over the next seven days.

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One of the greater challenges that we faced on this trip was creek and river crossings.  I will get into this more on Day 3, but the creeks and rivers very often braided, which made our hiking more like a game of Frogger.  We were always trying to find the path of least wetness.  You may say, “What’s the big deal with getting wet?  Suck it up.” Two reasons: 1.  For me staying dry is less about comfort than it is protecting myself.  If my boots are soaked and water-logged… then I have to deal with that for the next few days and risk foot related problems that could inhibit my hiking and slow us down.  If my pants are soaked… am I guaranteed sun to dry them out?  Not at all.  And without the ability to start a fire in Denali… clothes stay soaked.  Cool temperatures could potentially lead to hypothermic symptoms or even hypothermia. 2.  Even though most of the crossings were knee or below, the force by which the water was moving could EASILY sweep us down stream and compromise our safety.  On day 3 we dealt with water too deep and too fast moving to cross individually, but more on that later.  Be safe when crossing!

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In terms of terrain from Unit 33 into Unit 39, it may have been the easiest of our seven days.  Granted it is trail-less and you can make your own route, many times your route necessitates rougher terrain.  This day took us along creek beds, shallow creek crossings, spongy tundra, thigh high scrub brush, and Alder bushes.  I suppose it may have been the adrenaline of the first day (because the spongy tundra, thigh high scrub, and Alder bushes would take it’s toll on us on Day 3), but we didn’t have any trouble tackling the terrain on Day 1.  In fact, covering 7.6 miles in the trail-less Denali was somewhat impressive.  I can’t recall exactly how many hours we hiked the first day, but my guess is around four, which would make our speed close to 2mph.  We very, very rarely made it above 1mph the rest of the trip.  This is a testament to the roughness of the terrain and the amount of time it takes to find the least obstructive route.  But, always make time for blueberry breaks no matter where you are!

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The weather in Denali was unpredictable.  It could start the day cloudy and rain, but then later be blue skies with sun.  And believe me… the weather could change quickly.  On this particular day it started off quite cool in the low 50’s with gusty winds but then late in the afternoon the clouds broke and the sun popped out.  The blue skies and sun made for some really sweet picture taking!

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We finished Day 1 setting up camp close to Stony Creek.  The next morning would take us on a day hike across Stony Creek and up 1800-2000 feet to the peak of some unnamed mountains for epic views of the surrounding mountains and valley, including our route through Bear Draw on Day 3.

Atop Mt. Eielson by Josh Brown

Denali Backpacking Trip- Quick Summary

I will give a day-by-day breakdown of our 7 day backcountry backpacking trip to Denali National Park and Wilderness over the next few weeks, but I would like to give a quick summary of the trip with a listing of the units in which we stayed and a few additional thoughts about the trip.

1. We flew into Anchorage from Seattle with our beginning destination as Indianapolis (which is a long story that I will not bore you with). We were about 6 hours later arriving in Anchorage than we anticipated. Being that I like to have all of the logistical stuff ironed out EXACTLY… this killed me. Our initial plan had us arriving in Denali at 6am, which is three hours BEFORE the Backcountry Office. I thought that arriving AFTER the Backcountry Office opened would put us in a real pinch for getting the units that we really wanted. Despite arriving six hours after the office opened we were surprised that there were plenty of space available in the units we preferred. We had already ranked all of the units based upon our preferences, so it was really easy to put together a plan. The backcountry staffer we worked with in the office was really helpful and gave us quite a few hints and advice on navigating from one unit to the other. The Backcountry Office was busy. I think there were three or four other groups trying to get permits while we were there. All in all I think the whole process took about 45 minutes… and that includes us watching the mandatory safety video and safety talk. It all went pretty fast.

*One additional tidbit that may help. When we initially went into the Backcountry Office and went to the desk the guy who helped us immediately began by giving us an overview of the park. It went something like this, “Welcome to Denali. The park is divided into 87 units…” I immediately stopped him and said, “Ok. We have done all of our homework. We know how the park is divided… so on and so forth. We have all of the units ranked based upon our preferences so let’s get started.” I wasn’t tired or grumpy… it’s just that I figured people got the standard overview BECAUSE the majority of folks go into the office without a plan, without doing their research, and likely only want to go out for a night or two. My point in telling you this is so that you will do your homework in advance. It will save you time if you already have a few plans put together. Know your top units and be prepared to plug them in on the application sheet once you arrive. With other groups competing for the same spots… it just may give you the advantage when you are trying to get that super sweet unit with McKinley views.

2. Our unit itinerary was as follows:

Day 1 – Unit 39 -Stony Creek ~7.6 miles
Day 2 – Unit 39 -Stony Creek ~3.5 miles
Day 3 – Unit 32 -Toklat River ~7.5 miles
Day 4 – Unit 32 -Toklat River~3.4 miles
Day 4 – Unit 18 – Green Point ~4.9 miles
Day 5 – Unit 19 – Muldrow Glacier – ~3.9 miles
Day 6 – Unit 13 – ~5.1 miles
Day 7 – Unit 13 – ~9.2 miles

Total Trip Distance – 45.1 miles

We did two loops. The first was north of the road and the second was south of the road. That is why on Day 4 you see a split in the mileage, because we finished the first loop and started the second loop. The first loop was in the lower foothills along tundra, knee-high scrub, dense Alder bush and pine trees, and then the Toklat River gravel bar. The second loop was primarily along open, rocky creek areas, non-technical glacial, and gravel bars. The second loop proved to have minimal brushy areas, which was welcomed. While I will detail each day and the units, we were all asked to not provide specific information as to our camping areas or specific routes. Denali National Park prides itself on minimizing impact on the environment, which is commendable.

3. Have an expectation that you will absolutely get wet. Yeah, we all read the book by Ike Waits. We knew that his advice was to find the closest puddle and jump in it. But, somehow I think we, optimistically and unrealistically, were hoping that somehow we could avoid getting completely soaked. His advice was spot on. Find a puddle and jump in it. In fact, lie down in it and do the snow angel thing in it. Because if you are planning to spend any amount of time in the backcountry (and in our instance 7 days), I almost guarantee that you will get soaked. It will either be from the rain that always seems to be lurking around every turn of the creek or over every saddle- or- it will be from the endless river crossings that you will tackle. Plan to get wet. Fix it in your mind. Know that it will happen. And just enjoy the experience.

4. Everything is harder in Alaska. Despite the significant amount of experience that each of us brought into this trip… Denali was tough. There was a point during Day 7 when we finally came to the conclusion that Alaska was out to get us… was always trying to get the upper hand… was trying to give us the big middle finger. There wasn’t anything that was easy. Not having trails was difficult due to the terrain. Intermittent to continuous rain with cool temps was taxing. Crossing braided rivers took time and required patience. And every time that we could see our final destination for the day… there were more obstacles to getting there than we could imagine. If it wasn’t going over one ridge line only to see the next ridge line with dense bush in the way… then it was seeing the gravel bar and river from 700 feet up but having to fight a couple of miles of dense Alder. And all of that in the rain. I am not crying here… just stating a fact- when you backpack Denali and you cover a few dozen miles over a many days you will find it to be a “take no prisoner” experience. Your feet will hurt… will be wrinkled from being soaked… and you will have blisters. We all did. This isn’t to say that you won’t have an absolute blast… because you will. It is amazing and life-changing. Just go in with proper expectations.

That’s it for now. I will get to the daily summaries soon.

Peace…

Brandon