Sunday, February 24, 2013

Denali Discovery Hike--Part IV

Hiking in Denali is spectacular on so many levels--beautiful expansive views, fascinating tundra foliage, the wildlife communities, and unique geographical features with intriguing stories.
Part of the reason the geography of Denali is so fascinating is that you can actually see for great distances and imagine glaciers carving out the valleys over centuries. With the exception of a few park buildings (or a tent) placed sparingly, to educate and offer comfort for visitors, there are few buildings, no lines of cars, and no crowds. The wilderness is preserved and protected all the way down to how many hikers can actually cross the area of tundra that I walked across in this hike.
Above, you can get an idea of how expansive the land feels as you see how small my fellow hikers appear against the view beyond. In the southeastern United States where I live, in Tennessee, it is impossible to preserve our natural areas with this kind of purity simply because of population density.  Even the air and the water in the Great Smoky Mountains--one of the most visited national parks in the USA with over 9 million visitors in 2011--can not escape pollution carried by the wind and water from development and industry.
Knowing that makes exploring this pristine wilderness even more awe inspiring.  It's ruggedness and wide-open terrain offer a vastly different experience from the tree-covered Southern Appalachians that are familiar to me.
That difference made me want to slow everything down and enjoy every plant and lichen, take in every color, follow every path carved by the river. the wind, the caribou. As it was, I paused whenever I could, and lingered as long as I dared without holding up the hike's progression.

Above and below, you see the views we enjoyed as we rested and had a snack at the edge of the river shelf before continuing our trek back to the road where a shuttle bus would eventually pick us up for a ride to Eielson Visitor's Center.
Hiking in tundra is a unique feeling because the ground is soft and spongy.  Your boots sink down into the moss and short cropped foliage with each step and in some places, deeper than others.  Below, my boot all but disappears.
Below you see tundra plant communities that are so much fun to explore. Just look at the palette of colors! You can see why it was tempting to spend more time with each plant.  The white growths are reindeer lichen and the purple/red leaves, bog cranberry.
Below, a fun find--a harebell still in bloom, rising above blueberry leaves, lichen, mountain avens and yellow willow.


Above, mountain aven leaves (left), raindeer lichen and bright red bearberry leaves.  Below, its down hill to the river bed, where we saw our ptarmigan earlier, and then up hill most of the way on our return hike to the park road.




Below, Ranger Bob King (right) entertains as we wait for the park shuttle to arrive.
Below, views of the area we have just hiked, taken from the Eielson Visitor's Center.   The shelf you see in the distance and to the left of the gorge is where we rested for lunch.

This is the fourth post in a series about my Discovery Hike in Denali National Park and Preserve lead by Denali Ranger, Bob King.  To see the entire hike series click here.  Scroll to the bottom for the first post.

Links and Resources:
Click this link to view all my posts on Denali National Park and Preserve.  To see all posts on my visit to Alaska in August and September of 2012, visit Alaska

Denali National Park and Preserve
Willow Ptarmigan
Alaska wild berries

For an incredible read about caribou:  Being Caribou by Karsten Huer.  Visit the Being Caribou website.

2 comments:

  1. I am enjoying your in-depth exploration of Denali. We visited some years ago and walking out on the Tundra was the most unique experience - one that is so beautiful it stays with you forever. A very special & precious place.

    ReplyDelete

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