Toklat River (Unit 32) to Toklat River Rest Area
Mileage- 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain- 0
Elevation Loss- 0
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.
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.
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.
An edited, day-by-day version of my adventure in Denali National Park appeared in the fourth issue of Sidewalk – a hiking and backpacking magazine.
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.