Our trip into Teklanika on Friday was great. As I have stated earlier, Teklanika is 29 miles into the campground and private vehicles are not allowed past mile 15. If you camp at Teklanika, they give you a pass that allows one round-trip to the campground for one vehicle and you must stay at least three nights. We left Libby at the Riley Creek extended parking lot and drove on out to Teklanika about 9:30 a.m. It takes a little over an hour to drive the 29 miles as the highest speed limit is 35 and it is frequently lower than that. Once you pass the 15 mile marker you are greeted by a Ranger who makes sure your pass is valid and then gives you a rules lecture and greets you to that area of the park. The road becomes gravel at that point as well. About half way in we rounded a curve and there was “the mountain,” as Denali is frequently called, in all its splendor. The weather was perfect and we could clearly see it. It is magnificent and your first glimpse of it is something to remember. We got to the campground a little after 11:00 a.m., found a campsite and had set up before noon.
Since there was little else we could do before taking our Kantishna shuttle trip the next morning, Misty and I went hiking. Doris seems to have twisted her knee while on one of the Marine Ferry rides and we are trying to nurse it back so that she can hike with us again. We knew the Teklanika River ran behind the campground somewhere but we didn’t know how to get to it. We found one road off the campground loop that dead-ended in about 50 yards to a small trail so we decided to see where it went as it seemed to go in the general direction necessary to get to the river. It would up at this little creek and we figured we would just follow it as surely it would eventually empty into the river. After about 20 minutes of making our own trail, working around trees and hopping little tributaries of the creek, it did empty into the Teklanika. We then started going upstream and after about 10-15 minutes found ourselves talking to a fellow camper that was sitting behind his camper right next to the river bank ABOUT A TWO-MINUTE WALK FROM OUR MOTHERSHIP! Oh, well it was good exercise and we still enjoyed it.
We then continued down the river for about an hour then returned to the campground – the short way. During the hike we saw evidence of quite a bit of wildlife as well as a live Snowshoe Hare and a large ground squirrel. We also saw Moose droppings on the shore and Bear and Moose prints in the river mud. There was also a dead rabbit in two places though we believe it was the same rabbit consumed in two places. All that we saw was the fur and the rabbit’s feet – not too lucky for the rabbit though. Several wildflowers were also present. There was also some great scenery from the river.
Saturday we went on the Kantishna shuttle. This is a thirteen hour ride from the Wilderness Access Center to Kantishna which is at mile 91 of the Denali road. Since they picked us up at the campground our portion of the trip is only 10 hours. And what a great 10 hours it was. The weather was even better than Friday and we were fortunate to be able to see Denali again, this time from several different vantage points from deep within the park. We were also able to see 10 grizzly bears which consisted of three sets of mothers and two cubs and a lone bear that came through one of the parking lots and forced everyone back into the busses while it wandered through. In addition to that we saw several caribou, two or three Gold Eagles, Dall Sheep, a wolf, a Gyr Falcon, a muskrat, Snowshoe Hares, Ground Squirrels, and a black Red Fox. Not only that, the scenery of the Alaskan Range was fantastic. The pictures I take just don’t do justice to what we see.
Sunday we just stayed around the campsite until after lunch then Misty and I went on another hike up the Teklanika River. It didn’t take us long to get to the river this time and we hiked about three miles up the river to where the Denali road bridge crosses it. We had intended to only hike about two miles to where there is a rest area on the Denali road but the bank was too high and steep for us to get up it and we had to go on to the bridge in order to get up on the road and walk back. It was great exercise but we felt we had done enough for that day.
Monday we took the shuttle to Eielson Visitor Center (the first bus of the day at 6:40 a.m.) which is a little over half of the same route we took when we went to Kantishna. We were sure glad that we had clear weather for our trip on Saturday as the day was overcast and Denali wasn’t visible except for the lowest part of the base and sometimes a tip or two on top. We also saw much more wildlife on Saturday’s trip. We only saw two bears today and they were a good distance from the road. I included pics of one but the other was too far away. I was able to get some good shots of a Red Fox near the visitor center. Misty and I decided to hike the Alpine Trail from the visitor center: a little over 1,000 vertical feet on a one-mail trail to the top of a mountain. It was very strenuous, about 30 degree inclines on the path most of the way with an occasional 45 degree thrown in. Needless to say we had to make a lot of rest stops to give this ole ticker time to get its breath. We did make it though it took 1:45 to get there and another 45 minutes to get back down. I have included some shots of the scenery from near the top of the mountain and the wildlife and flowers seen along t he trail.
Tomorrow we head for Fairbanks where we plan to stay until Misty flies out next Monday, the 27th. I will not be posting this blog until we reach there and I get internet available again.