Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2004 Sierra Club Hiking and Backpacking in Alaska

A Sierra Club Outing: Alaska Autumn Sampler: Hiking and Backpacking  in Alaska 
(Commentary and photos, and at the end, a choice of 8 videos of this trip.)

In 2004, twelve of us, two leaders and ten Sierra Club members, met in Fairbanks for this 14 day Sierra Club Outing. Our first stop was Denali National Park where we camped two nights and took the 166 mile round-trip green shuttle bus ride out to Wonder Lake, observing much wildlife on the way, including dozens of grizzlies, some right next to the road. The only vehicles allowed on the road are the busses, and over the decades, the wildlife has learned to ignore them and get close to the road.

Some other animals seen while in Alaska...

We returned to Denali at the end of our two week trip because our second backpack was canceled due to forest - tundra fires in the area. Instead, we dayhiked up the Mt. Healy Trail (elevation gain 2100+ feet) and here we see Yvonne and Bob having lunch at the Mt. Healy Overlook. As we got higher, Mt. McKinley's two peaks were visible to us, peeking above the other mountains.

Here's the view from Mt. Healey Trail looking back at Highway 3 and the Nenana River and the commercial area near Denali's entrance. The large hotels owned by the cruise lines are there as well as other businesses...

...and a view of the mountain we call Mt. McKInley. but the natives call Mt. Denali ("The Great One.")

Next was our backpack in Denali State Park, right across the highway from the national park and possessing the same terrain. Here are photos and info on the backpack trip. After the backpack, we camped two nights at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the United States at 13 million acres (larger than Switzerland and with higher peaks than Switzerland.) Of the thirteen nights of our outing, we camped nine nights and spent four nights in rustic cabin accommodations. Glacier View Campground in Wrangell-St. Elias is at the end of the 60 mile gravel McCarthy Road. A pedestrian bridge allowed us to walk 1/2 mile to the town of McCarthy and five miles farther to the old mining town of Kennicott. A shuttle bus is available if you choose to not walk to either town.

 On our free day, several of us took the guided glacier hike, and here Mary and our guide from Kennicott Wilderness Guides travel on Root Glacier. We have crampons on our boots which allow us to safely walk on the ice and even up steep slopes without difficulty. The low cloud cover provided an ethereal feeling to our three hours on the glacier.

Mary and I enjoying the views on Root Glacier. It turned out Mary and I both graduated from Lane Tech High School in Chicago, although several decades apart.

We did venture pretty far onto the Glacier.

The historic mining town of Kennicott was acquired by the National Park Service in 1998 and still has its immense hillside factory building fairly intact. From 1911 to 1938, about $200 million in copper was processed here. The buildings have been abandoned for over 70 years now, but some sections are being stabilized and tours are available.

Another photo from Wrangell-St. Elais National Park...

One of the three lodges we stayed at (all the rest was camping) was Tangle Lakes Lodge on the gravel Denali Highway. We spent one day hiking and canoeing the area, and here Jim and Joanne enjoy paddling the serene waters of the interconnecting lakes. Caribou and various waterfowl were observed while paddling. That evening we were treated to a bit of the Northern Lights.

Another view from the Denali Highway...

We also investigated the Alaska Oil Pipeline which runs 800 miles from the North Slope of Alaska to Valdez.

Here is the entire group:
(l to r): Nick (our leader), Sandy (co-leader), Joanne, 
Mike, Bill, Maxine, Jim, Mary, Yvonne, Don, and Bob

I also made 8 videos of different aspects of this 8 week visit to Alaska. At the top left of the movie below is an icon with 3 lines and then 1/8. If you click on the lines, you'll get the list of all 8 videos so you can choose which to view.

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