|Bus on park road|
I had permits for 3 different hikes in Denali, but I want to focus on the longest one - a five day hike- to give you an impression what hiking in Alaska is like. As I have mentioned before there are no long trails in Denali. If you don't want to constantly bushwhack through alpine tundra you have two options: Either you climp up over tree and brush line (4,000 ft at Denali) and walk along the ridges. Or you follow rivers and streams. I opted for the latter, because I was afraid that the exposed ridgeline option could turn pretty nasty in bad weather.
|Toklat River valley|
After 10 hours of straight hiking (well, you can't really call it hiking - bushwhacking would be more appropriate) I had managed to advance less than 10 km and was totally exhausted. I was shaking from exhaustion. Eventually I had been able to cross the river, but these crossing were always iffy. As a rule of thumb you can cross very swift water as long as it is only knee deep. Usually you can still cross water levels that are a bit higher, but it takes a lot of effort and concentration. Clearwater Creek by now was up to mid-thigh, and although the crossing was now manageable - there were too many of them. I had to cross almost every 300 meters and the effort just drained my energy. I slept fitfully and had nightmares of not being able to get out of this mess. If the terrain did not improve, I would not be able to make it out to the park road before my food ran out.
|Gorge narrowing down|
I continued very carefully crossing onto the other side of the creek as soon as possible. Well, the bear had disappeared, but one hour later I stood right in front of a huge moose. Moose are no predators, but still more people die from moose than from bear attacks. And this particular moose seemed to be pretty deaf, because no matter what I yelled at it it would not move. It only ran away when I started moving towards it. I had less than 3 km to the park road but my problems were not over yet. I had to go through a narrow gorge first and a huge rockslide had gone down there a couple of years before. Instead of walking through tundra I had to rockclimb now. I thought I would never make it out to the road - but eventually I did!