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Autumn in Denali National Park

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Autumn, which in those mountainous regions far north of the equator like Denali Park, occurs in August. All the deciduous brush across the hillsides in the river canyon are going shades of gold. Here above this oxbow lake late afternoon sun catches those colors deepening the green of the spruce trees. I took a quick hike down while waiting for a friend to meet me before venturing further into the park.

Down next to the water, the sun sparkles. This particular area seems to always catch and hold the sun, the warmth penetrating to the bones. I was later glad to have caught some.

Having finally met up, my friend and I began to drive in the park road. We took every opportunity to pull off and absorb the slanted sun on the bright fall colors of the taiga. Sights like these were what brought me here to stay.

We caught these two moose moving across a glacier scraped creek bed. All the wildlife on the preserve are fearless and free. This is rutting season, so these are clearly females, no antler rack.

The campsite we reserved was deep in the spruce trees, lovely site earlier in season, already frostily cold in August. We slept early, curled in our tents and rose fresh and early. I knew the best mountain viewing is early morning, since in later days it is commonly shrouded in cloud, so we set out quickly, warming the car to melt off a frost. Cresting the hill, the bright red Autumn lit up and Denali stood crisp in new snow.

Always a grand site we spent the morning taking it in. Then caught a large bus, as access to the preserve is allowed only by bus and entered by 9am. Early views form the first ridges revealed the other peaks of the Alaska Range, those more commonly seen from my side, the Interior. This is Mt Deborah, 3761M, jutting up from a 300M interior flat lands. (I so regretted forgetting my camera, this is all phone!)

An hour into the park we came to the Teklanika River flats. These long flat river beds are old glacier beds, scraped bare with nothing but a meandering river of runoff making its way through the stones. Here we are still low enough to have the trees of the taiga, gold in the deep valleys, the red tundra stretching up the alpine slopes.

Higher through Polychrome pass, the tundra is long and flat, running along the earth until even it cannot survive, on the steep slopes. This soft mat is one of those wonders, something that holds a special place for me. The glaciers run, frozen rivers through those peaks, still carving things anew as they rise up.

The sights of polychrome pass can barely overshadow the harrowing bus ride on steep sharp switchbacks on a nearly one way road. We have ridden about 4 hours on the bus now. All our nerves are on end. My friend was getting tired of the bus, and I had already planned out best stops with the widest views, so next stop coming up we decided to embark on our own.

Toklat river basin, wide and flat with steep slopes encircling it, this is where we chose to start walking. The sun seemed hot here absorbed into all the stone. It is 2pm, the bus ride was taxing, now that we have begun to move about.

We chose to cross the river and climb to the top of the cliff over the road. Though crossing over was long and far around, the way up was quick. We sighted a few Doll Sheep at the top and warned them quietly we’d be joining them soon. Wish I had been fast enough to catch that shot.

Coating this hillside is my favorite tundra plant, Arctostaphylos alpina in its rich red autumn clothes. In this untouched place, it was speckled with twisted and stunted little willows. Each step broke through a crust of stiff mosses and lichen.

The view from the first outcropping over the cliffs edge was dizzying. Every direction I’d lose my equilibrium and have to touch the ground. I took these shots laying down, feeling like the exposure of this raw wilderness would overwhelm me.

Denali still stood clear above all other mountains, distant but so immense. The afternoon clouds threatened and succeeded to shroud it the rest of the day.

Here from this site on the ridge, the ground was worn to the stone with small hoof prints. The thick peat of the tundra cascading down into this area like a crashing wave. I found out later that the doll sheep frequents sights on the mountain side where they literally eat the dirt at natural salt licks, like this one. We wondered, my friend and I, what would make it seem like the ground was taken away by them at the time.

This ancient and twisted willow clinging to the cliff and shading the sheep, as the well used trail shows to be the case, is where they stood watching as we approached the climb. What a view they have! And I wonder, these ancient trees what generations of the sheep they have nurtured, for so many years! A timeless now came over us. We chose a warm mat as well but beneath the willow grove just below the ridge for ourselves to snack, nap, and take it all in.

From just beyond my toes, laid out flat, the mat of growth stretches to disappear in a limitless void with the world spreading out far beneath. Still a little off balance from the height, I kept close to the earth. We let the shadow of a large cloud cross the valley, the rush of the river lulling away any stray sounds on the wind. We both caught a nice pink in our cheeks.

Once I had rested a bit and the afternoon was fading, we stole into the willow behind us, finding many just as old as that on the cliff. I took a seat on this one, strong and vital beneath me, swaying and shivering as the wind over the ridge top shook the uppermost branches. I don’t know that I have felt a thrill like that riding any other thing, that living, breathing, quacking force supporting me as well. Time passed.

We circled above, to take a look over the ridge from above the willow grove. A break in the trees as we went exposed a little rock outcrop perched above highest point of the cliff. I love this type of landmark, ancient but holding on, everlasting. It watches forever over the river valley.

Then once we crested the ridge, the most amazing sight. Those doll sheep we had seen had never left and were dozing the same as we, collecting the afternoon sunlight. They just looked at us, knowing we were too far off to be immediate threats. This is their home, they live and die up here on these rocks. We were with them for five or six minutes. If only I had remembered my real camera was all I could think. These animals are the root of the park being founded, to save the doll sheep.

What a spectacle! Refreshed and with the shadows lengthening, we picked our way along the sheep trails down back to the river. The wide river bed, sliced out by glacier folds us in, the mountainsides parading again, towering around us.

Denali, the mountain, shrouded a bit by the moving clouds, the road travels onward, inward. We don’t have that ticket today, another three hours of road but one day. Enticing view.

The evening is too late, no more travels today, just a four hours straight shot out the park road, one last bus ride out. Simple as it was, that was worth it all. I’m left filled up, I leave having found something I’d forgotten and now can hold close.

Hope you enjoyed the ride too.

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Comments

 

That is just .... FAN-TAS-TIC!!!!!!!!!!! I felt I was with you! Denali looks spectacular - I just wish I'd discovered my love of climbing and mountain-walking before I got too old to do it justice! Thank you for this lovely blog and wonderful photos (Take your camera next time!) :o))))))))

5 Dec, 2011

 

Such a fantastic blog. I too felt that I was with you in that amazingly beautiful place. Thankyou.

5 Dec, 2011

 

Lovely scenery pictures and good descriptions :o)

5 Dec, 2011

 

Thank you Greenthumb, this is such a wonderful blog; I had to read it on the biggest computer i had to take full advantage of those fabulous pictures, what a place, no wonder you love it.
The space, the clean air, the sky, those ice blue glacial rivers, the white peaks, the little trees, those sheep, so many beautiful things. Its also really 'warming' to hear your obvious love and enthusiasm coming through your writing. This was just lovely ~ thank you.
When I saw the first picture I thought 'Yukon territory' ~ is this right?

5 Dec, 2011

 

Absolutely amazing, GT, fantastic scenery and your words made me feel as if I was there. Thank you for sharing :)

5 Dec, 2011

 

I agree with everyone. Absolutely fantastic. What a wonderful place.

5 Dec, 2011

 

Just wonderful,Greenthumb..I loved this blog,and your lovely photo's..albeit with your phone camera,they have still managed to show us this beautiful place very well...It takes me back to my schooldays,as my best Geography essay was about the Tundra..I was so interested in it,and it's history as well..how lucky you are to live near to all this..thank you..and also for rekindling my memories..:o)

5 Dec, 2011

 

Some great shots here GT, thanks for a great blog

5 Dec, 2011

 

Fantastic blog Gt and the scenery is fantastic, I can see why you love your part of the world.
Thankyou for sharing with us, you might have forgotten your camera but the photo`s are still amazing...

5 Dec, 2011

 

stunning photos GT, going in my favs, i may paint them one day if you dont mind me using your pictures, fabulous, thanx for showing.
winter coming fast now i guess for you, keep warm :o))

5 Dec, 2011

 

Absolute stunning photography GT. brilliant blog, what an incredible place, just mind blowing, I simply love the mountains. WOW.

5 Dec, 2011

 

Thank you for sharing, wonderful blog. The photos are spectacular, I would love to visit someday.

5 Dec, 2011

 

Nariz, thank you. I hoped it would flow like a video. Amazing place that speaks for itself really. I did regret not having shot I could reasonably print. (The new camera is going to take ridiculous shots!!! :-)

Homebird, TT, thank you both, glad you enjoyed. :-)

Sticki, you got so close! Most of Yukon territory is also interior boreal forest just like here, the ranges there are the same progressive range ending at Mt. McKinley so they are strikingly similar. I did so much travel this year, I can't wait to get it all up. I've a goal to get more places that are close, since I've so much still to see. I'm glad you enjoyed the journey, great idea, the biggest screen. I'm glad these still look okay large like that.

Gee, thank you. I like to write and hoped it would be alright, I'm not always clear. :-)

Thank you Cinderella. I'm so glad you enjoy.

Bloomer, what a lovely thing to say. I'm thrilled I rekindled those memories. Thank you for coming on the journey with me here. :-)

Thank you Stevie.

Thank you, Lincs. I'm glad it came out well. It thrills me, a place like this. And I love it! I've much still the share. :-)

San, thank you. Feel free to use them to paint. The colors and contrast is wonderful in the park in these colors. As for now, eek, its well into winter, we were the coldest city on earth for two days already in November. Brutal. :-)

Grandmage, glad you enjoyed. It is a grand place, and speaks for itself here. :-) Thank you.

Thank you TG. I'm glad you enjoyed, and hope you do make it one day. Its amazing.

6 Dec, 2011

 

looking forward to the new camera ~ if this one is anything to go by the new one will be spectacular!!
Im so glad to hear you like to write ~ it comes over!! Your enthusiasm spills over and shows in the blogs.

If it wasnt so far away I would be visiting there. Sort of place i love ~ Hebridean islands are my nearest match!!! No glaciers though!!!

6 Dec, 2011

 

Sticki, the new one is spectacular. These shots are just my phone. The net trip I had to buy a camera as I forget the charger to my current one. Oh sad day......(lol). I'll post a pic from it later. I'm glad my wiriting came across. :-)

I took a quick google of the hebridean islands. Wow, that is a beautiful place. No glaciers, but still wow. :-)

6 Dec, 2011

 

oh it is wow, just gorgeous ~ have a look at luskentyre!

looking forward to the new shots ~ zoom and macro?

6 Dec, 2011

 

WOWWWWWWWW..... what an amazing country you live in...

6 Dec, 2011

 

Thanks for taking us along with you on that amazing trip! There are so many lovely places in this world to visit that we'd need several lifetimes to see them all! I really enjoyed this blog & am looking forward to a sequel blog!

6 Dec, 2011

 

I had those features Sticki, the new one is a Sony NEX-C3. I haven't bought new lenses for macro or zoom yet, but it triples my last camera without. I wanted the quality to make great large prints.

Sandra, thank you. Glad you enjoyed, Denali is a real experience. I took a trip through the southern peninsula and back through the east country and mountains. So much more to share. :-)

Balcony, I'm pleased you enjoyed. Thank you. Continuing to compose along. I hope to see as many places I can.

7 Dec, 2011

 

that looks a very nice camera ~ all the advantages and im not sure it has any disadvantages!

a bit like my canon powershot G10 but you can add extra lenses and i dont think i can.

very nice ~ have fun!!

7 Dec, 2011

 

Thank you. I love it so far. Can't wait to try shooting northern lights with it!

8 Dec, 2011

 

oh wow!!!

i would dearly love to see those.

8 Dec, 2011

 

amazing scenery green thumb great shots

8 Dec, 2011

 

thankyou GT, in my favs till i feel i can have a go with the paints, hope your all keeping warm now winter has hit you, hows bianca doing ?

8 Dec, 2011

 

Sticki, I'm sure I've got one already, just need to dig it up. :-)

Thank you Laversteve. :-)

I've been keeping well enough. Just gliding on through. Bianca is so bored of being inside already, and sleeps a lot. Loves sleeping upstairs in the fuschias. lol.

9 Dec, 2011

 

you lucky thing being able to see the northern lights

sleeping a lot seems a good idea to me ~ i think work and time off ought to revolve round the weather ~ we all get a day off when the sun shines!!!!

9 Dec, 2011

 

lol GT must be her favourite plant :o))

9 Dec, 2011

 

what a wonderful blog, photo's are just fantastic,

9 Dec, 2011

 

Thank you Yorkshore. So fun to share. My friends amazement as we traveled through reminded me what I was seeing. I've been here often enough I was taking it for granted.

San, I have the area wrapped with plastic so I don't have to worry about the carpet. She loves crinkly plastic and mixed with dappled shade under my grow light, it is perfect for her :-)

Sticki, it's a good year for them. Last few there has not been much activity. I'll try to post a shot today.

9 Dec, 2011

 

yes please!!
many thanks.

9 Dec, 2011

 

:-) Done!

9 Dec, 2011

 

oh, fabulous, i found it ~ thank you. just fantastic.

9 Dec, 2011

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