Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16 – Polychrome Pass

There aren’t really any trails in Denali National Park except for a few near the entrance. You can essentially hike anywhere in the park. You just ask to be let off the bus, take off into the wilderness and when you come back flag down they next bus that has seats available. They don’t have formal trails because they don’t want any one area to get too worn. They even encourage you to not even walk one behind the other.

One of the guide books said that there were some nice views from the ridges behind one of the stops the buses make. The stop is called Polychrome Pass because of the many colours of rocks. Lots of reds, oranges and yellows (ochre).

Yesterday our ticket gave us a reserved seat on a certain bus. Today we got a seat if one was available. We got out to the bus stop about 8:45 and the people started piling up with no busses coming along. The second one that did come along was mostly empty but was only supposed to take people on a ranger hike but the driver was a nice guy and let everyone pile in.

On the way out we “saw” another tiny dot of a grizzly bear. Even the zoomed picture is not worth showing.

When we got up the sky was clear and we were told that the mountain Denali had been clear top to bottom. By the time we headed in the clouds had started coming. Oh well. It was still a very nice day for a hike.




Once we were dropped off we had to choose between two ridges. Once to the east


and one to the west.


The one to the west looked more interesting so off we went.


We had to climb down the hill behind Jennie through the low shrubs and go across this valley covered in very spongy moss. We didn’t get wet but it was very squishy.

Here is the view back after we were done.


and our path.


It may not look like much but it took us about 1.5 hours to get to the peak over Jennie and then about 1 hour to get back to the starting point. We forgot the pedometer so we aren’t sure was far it actually was but they aren’t very accurate when you are climbing anyway.

Up we go through the brush.


The view from half way up with another hiker that had spent the night out in the wilderness, heading back down,


Still a long way to go.



Once at the top of the first hill we got some view of the cloud shadows on the hills behind it.



Crossing the ridge between the two hills wasn’t too bad.


Once across that ridge we could proceed more to the west along a VERY thin ridge to the actual highest point.


On one side it was about 600 feet down to the road and then another 800 down to the valley floor. On the other side I would guess at 900 feet and very steep. Needless to say this was a challenge for Jennie and her fear of heights but she forced herself to go and we slowly made it to the top.

I went up first to check it out. See if you can find Jennie waiting in the picture below.


There she is, in the little blue square.


Not a bad lunch spot.



I just stood on this essentially 1400 foot cliff for a very long time. Since you couldn’t see the cliff below you in your peripheral vision, it was like staring off the end of the world. Awe inspiring.  I was reluctant to leave my perch but the wind had picked up and it was getting chilly.


We had company . He stared at us for a minute and then proceeded as though we weren’t there. It is called a Hoary Marmot. We also saw a tiny mouse like creature called a Pika scooting around but he was too far away for a decent picture.


Every time a bus would go by he would perch himself out on a rock to watch. You can see him lower center in the picture below.


The view back to the start. You can see some bicyclists on the road. There were not many. Some of the buses have bike racks so if you want to do a one way trip you can or if you just get too pooped they will pick you up.


There is a small obelisk at the very top of the hill.


Even at the top of this peak, there were lots of mosquitoes.  Jennie sprayed her ankles and still got a bit there.  The path back down wasn’t too bad. We just picked our way through the shrubbery again. Back at the viewpoint we only had to wait about 10 minutes for a bus to come along which was kind of lucky. We had been watching from the top and had not seen a single one of the green shuttle busses heading back towards the entrance. I think we got the first one.

By this time it was about 1:30. I would have liked to go on to the visitor’s center but that would have been about a 4 hour round trip just back to here. This place is huge. So we headed back.

We saw some more sheep high up on a ridge. The bus we got on only went part way into the park. They must not have seen the sheep up close like we did yesterday because they all got excited seeing these little dots about a kilometer away.


Since this bus made the shortest trip into the park, but not really short at about 6 1/2 hours roundtrip, there were a lot of kids in car seats. I was amazed that most were still in pretty good moods after that long a time.

There is a rest stop just a few kilometers from our campground. Since it was early we got off the bus and walked back along the riverbed to the RV.



A great day.  An exhausting day!

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