The Great One, Denali

It took three trips, but I was finally able to see the mountain.  I visited Denali twice in winter, and both times it was completely shrouded in clouds.  I learned that 70% of people who visit Denali never get to see it, the weather being so frequently unforgiving.  But on my third attempt the following autumn, I couldn’t have asked for better conditions.  I arrived, by luck, 3 days before the only road in is bared for the winter, and only 6 other people got on the bus for backcountry access, I’d never felt more remote and alone, but not in a lonely way.  It was nice naturey feeling, knowing there was barely a soul or trace of mankind within 100 miles of me.  I had the mountains and the rivers to myself, and it was lovely.  Well, not totally to myself, lots of animal sighting including my first pack of wolves!  Unfortunately they were on the ridge opposite a massive valley so no worthwhile photos, but to hear a howl when the auroras started blazing away was an exhilarating experience.

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Peaking through autumn alders at a big ol brown bear.
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A really strong aurora flared up, visible even in the glow just after sunset.
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Massive dry river in late autumn, really hope to get back during the summer snow melt and get this same shot except with a raging river.
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A big male who still eyes a mom and cubs after being run off.
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This mountain blows my mind.
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The road here is probably about 4K ft elevation. Crazy to think its another 16,000′ up to the top.

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Even the ‘foothills’ are impressive.  Wish I could share this full image with you, its 25k pixels wide, and you can see every detail of every amazing peak.  Maybe on a video soon…
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That would have been an impressive bull for sure.
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Mama comforting her cubs after chasing off a male.

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Derp!

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Mama running off a male while the cubs try to keep it. It was wonderful to see these massive creatures move like a freight train up the steep terrain.

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Denali foothills showing off some impressive autumn.

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A strange igloo along the Denali highway.
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These aren’t even the peak.

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Hatcher Pass, AK in Autumn

Amazing how much a few months can change a place.  This is the same mountain pass from the previous post.  Definitely a different feel from when its not encased in 10 feet of snow, and made for a much more enjoyable hiking.

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Not sure where the pooch came from, but it was nice to have some company for bit til she trotted off down the mountain.

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I found her people but she went off exploring the mountain on her own.  I need a mountain dog…

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This guy’s got alpine travel figured out.  I think when my knee finally goes I’m gonna go this route.

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Sketchy crossings,  no problem for the slow and steady…

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Autumn found in pockets amongst the pine.  There were also entire mountainsides which were a blanket of yellow birch and spruce.

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I’d been on the road for a week at this point, and hadn’t found a shower in awhile.  This is me, debating whether to brave the cold and take a bath in this lovely little alpine lake… Frigid but completely worth it.

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Nice little ptarmigan, funny little birds and not in the least bit shy.

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