Husky House

Posts Tagged ‘Denali’

2015 Teklanika-Polychrome Bike

Every year after Spring Road Opening and before tour buses start running on May 20, the Denali Park Road is open to private vehicles to Teklanika, around mile 30. Normally private vehicles can only drive to the Savage River at mile 15. It is a spring ritual for us to drive to Teklanika and ride our bicycles to Polychrome Pass and back to Tek, about 31 miles. This ride includes Sable and Polychrome Passes, and a very personal experience in the Park. This year we had a beautiful bluebird day, marred only by brutal winds. We saw a sow with a cub by the East Fork of the Toklat, Dall sheep on Polychrome, caribou, fox, moose and an assortment of ground squirrels and ptarmigan. It was one of the hardest rides of my life because of the winds, but very rewarding in terms of the accomplishment and the relative solitude of the Park pre-tourist.

Young moose along the Denali Park Road

Bill cresting Sable Pass on the way back to Teklanika.

Mt McKinley

 

This guy walked right by me like I wasn’t even there. I was about 5 feet from him.

MORE PHOTOS HERE!

A Cessna 180, a Camera and Ice Cream

I enjoy doing totally decadent off-the-wall things and yesterday I did just that.  Our down-the-hill neighbor, Don, is a snowbird, except he lives in Ft Lauderdale and flies his Cessna 180 to Fairbanks every summer.  I call him and his wife migrants, because they come with the birds and leave with the birds.  Don is very generous and Bill flies with him all the time; for Bill and Don, being airborne is the destination, it doesn’t matter where they go.  I need a destination and a purpose.  Don knows I love Denali, and with the autumn colors bursting forth across the landscape, he offered to fly us to Denali so I could take some photos.  I didn’t have to think twice about that, I was ready to go!   Besides, I’d been harboring the urge for a mint chocolate chip waffle cone for weeks, and here was the opportunity to fly to Denali and satisfy that craving.  I was ready in a virtual heartbeat.  It was a beautiful day, the flight was smooth, the foliage awesome and the ice cream satisfying.  Of course, in Alaska, where the airplane is just an extension of the automobile, this isn’t decadent; it’s just another day.

Climbing out of Denali Park heading home to Fairbanks

 

More photos of flying to Denali

Triple Lakes Hike, Denali Park

This is the 2011 version of this great hike.  The trail goes from the Visitor Center on the north end to the north side of the Nenana River bridge about mile 231 Parks Highway at the south trailhead, you can hike it in either direction. The Park Service has made major improvements to this trail, most notably the new bridge across Riley Creek at the Northern Trailhead and tying the trail into it. Last year we hiked from south to north and couldn’t find the trail off the ridge, so we did a bit of bushwhacking to get down to Riley Creek and then had to cross the creek via the Alaska Railroad bridge, which is trespassing.  However, this little act of defying the establishment was a hoot, and I will miss doing it now that the trail bridge is complete.  Also there are now mileage signs at both trailheads indicating the trail is 7.7 miles long, and there are signs marking the trails descending to lakes two and three.  The Park Service is still working on the trail and there are sections of the trail at the top that are being rerouted.  While the rerouting will create a nice trail, it appears that it will take you away from the magnificent 360 view along the ridge and take you along the Riley Creek side of the hill. This is still a great view, just not as sweeping.

In previous years, this was the only way across Riley Creek

The fantastic new bridge across Riley Creek

Since I was staying at a lodge near the south trailhead, I took a shuttle bus to the Visitor Center (north trailhead) and started from there, so I didn’t need to worry about catching the last shuttle back to the lodge.  At the end of the hike, all I had to do was cross the Parks Highway and walk across the Nenana River bridge and I was “home.”  I thoroughly enjoyed the hike, and it was comforting knowing that I was no longer going to get lost, since I started on the north end, crossed the new bridge and was immediately on the trail which followed along Riley Creek for a while before starting to climb.  In previous years we hardly saw anyone on the trail, but this year I met about 30 other hikers along the way.  Apparently word is out that the trail is useable from end to end.  On the way up the hill, about two miles into the hike, I passed a group of park employees who were working on the trail.  Several were using shovels to repair the trail while others were manually debarking fallen trees to use in shoring up the trail edge.  There is only one way to work for these employees and that is to hike.

Park Service trail workers debarking trees by hand for use as trail supports

More trail workers, it is because of crews like this that the trail is so great!

These photos describe the trail better than any words.  It was a pleasantly warm but brightly overcast day and photography was not too successful for this amateur.

The north end of the trail runs along Riley Creek before beginning to climb

A nice trail improvement

Along the way; I love all the shades of leaf green

Up on the ridge, I passed some bear scat on the trail not far from here

Amazing....I ran into a friend on the trail!

The first view of lakes 2 & 3 from the north

A tired hiker near the end of the trail

A bear of a ride….

On May 18, Bill and I departed Fairbanks on a road trip to Denali, Anchorage, Seward, Alyeska, Anchorage, and Denali.  The original destination was the Exit Glacier 5K in Seward, we had done the same round robin trip last year and enjoyed it so much that we thought we would do it again.  We had not planned to stay in Denali on the way south, as our favorite lodge was not yet open for the season, but a wild hair to bike another leg of the Park Road changed that. Last year we had biked from Teklanika (30) mile to the Park entrance, and I still had the crazy idea to eventually bike the entire Park Road, although in segments.  The tourist season had not officially started, so the buses were not yet running into the Park, allowing us to drive into Teklanika at mile 30 and bike roundtrip from there to Polychrome at mile 46.  The elevation ranges from 2655′ at Tek to 3900′ at Sable Pass to 3055 at East Fork River to 3695 at Poly, so it is a bit of up and down on gravel roads.

It was a beautiful day for a bike ride, with Mt McKinley fully visible

As luck would have it, it was a beautiful day, although a little windy, and since only a few Park Rangers and trainee buses were on the Park Road, it was peaceful and solitary.  After the last Ranger stopped and talked to us on Poly on her way out, about 7 pm, we were alone on the road that runs through 6 million wilderness acres, an expanse that people come from all over the world to see, and it is in our backyard.  We are so blessed.Bill wrote an email that accounts the ride, and I am inserting it here.  I just wanted to set the stage a bit.  Since I always have to say something, I will insert my comments in a different color.  Here is Bill’s account:

A perfect spring outing on the bikes. The day was sunny, windy and bright for the two of us, my wife Susan, the jock and I, to bike into Denali Park.  A friend of ours had done this trail a week earlier and the challenge was set for us to do the same.  The 35 mile ride was on a gravel hard packed surface, which sometimes was more loose than hard packed making peddling even harder.  It was onward and up and down steep hills as may be evidenced in the  photo as the old fart is pictured riding….or more likely struggling up to Sable Pass from the bottom of the valley.  Susan is, as always, up ahead and taking photos waiting for me to catch up.  It is very early spring in mid May and things have not begun to bloom or green up but the animals are stirring into the approaching summer.  We have already seen caribou, a wolf and numerous little marmots.  It is a hard ride though.  The picture shows me in my front tire fixation mode as the hills were increasingly tough for this senior citizen to negotiate along with keeping balance on some very loose gravel areas.  In the mid afternoon there where a few park vehicles to give us a fine dust coating as well.  Later we would have gladly welcomed their presence.

A look at the road surface

Bill peddling up Sable Pass

A couple little guys who emerged from their hole alongside the road and just loved having their picture taken

As the afternoon stretched into early evening, we reached Sable pass which is well known for being in the middle of bear country….and bear scat was already plenty evident. I guess for those who have never seen it they are like huge dog turd piles.  We stop at the Sable pass sign and I mimic a scratch and a much needed rest.  Bears really do use the sign to scratch and thus the park service decided to add some ticklers to help scratch their thick coats and hide.  You can not see it but there are little tufts of fur on some of the metal pieces.  And note that at 3900′ at Sable Pass we have to go down (to 3055′) and up to another pass a little over four thousand feet (3695′).  NOT EASY FOR OLD FARTS……but onward and upward we go.

The sign on Sable Pass has tines for the bears to scratch themselves

Finally we made it to the top of Polychrome Pass and you can sure see that we have gained some considerable altitude in this photo.  However, as we started down the road to go back in the early evening we found that while the park vehicle traffic had ceased, we were seeing bear scat and are obviously not alone.  We are now grasping what is more obvious  which is that we are NOT at the top of the food chain.  I was well behind Susan and was on the way back up to Sable struggling to get each pedal up when I look up and there comes Susan who tells me that she is not riding back to me for my health.  She tells me that there is a bear following her from the other side of the pass.  We dismount and stand together assessing what to do.  We have a long way to go back down and if it sees us try that as it comes around the bend upwind from us, it will likely make chase.  (We were a mile from the top of a four mile climb eastbound up Sable Pass and bear or not, there was no way I was going back down that hill) These bears can run at 33 miles per hour which makes even a down hill bike chase a loser for us.  I am assessing options and figure I will get the pepper spray out.  The wind was pretty constant and about ten to twenty miles per hour and in our face so pepper spray was really out of the question as it would just blow back into us.  So I told Susan to stand behind me and about that time the bear comes into view about forty yards up around a bend walking its pigeon toed gait toward us.  He is about a two to three year old three to four hundred pound male and likely hungry as it has come out of hibernation.

At last, Polychrome Pass, our turn around point. This is where we saw the last Park Ranger .

Mr Bear when I first saw him ambling down the road on his evening stroll

There are a lot of thoughts going through my mind like why didn’t I bring my gun etc.  I am also determined not to show fear of any kind and am surprised that I am actually pretty cool about this whole thing….or maybe in shock.  I am wishing we had something coming to our defense but know that as late as it is no vehicle traffic is left…most of those folks are already eating pizza.  I am thinking of a big rock but no time, hell, even a spear would be nice too.  We are on the up slope of a steep road cut from the side of the mountain and it has walls of some twenty feet high on our left and falls sharply off down another forty feet on our right.  THERE IS SIMPLY NO PLACE TO GO!!  Noting the bear is about thirty yards away and NOT showing any signs of avoiding us, I then tell Susan we will advance slowly with our bikes between us and the bear with raised arms and shout LOUDLY.  I am using as much command voice as possible, repeatedly yelling, “Get off my damned road!” with as much authority as I can muster.  I don’t remember what Susan was yelling but she was giving it her all too. (I was yelling “Hello Mr. Bear ” and waving my arms over my head) The bear meanwhile just keeps right on coming, in a rambling sort of stroll toward us and as it gets to about twenty feet from us I am thinking if he charges I will use the bike to try to shield us.  The rest will have to be as it must be.  I am mentally bracing myself for one hell of a thumping as it comes to about twelve feet from us.  Watching closely I notice it does not have its mouth open and its hackles are not up which are not signs of aggression.  It is not snorting or snapping its jaws either.  Suddenly it looks me right in the eye and in one spontaneous motion bolts ass over teakettle down the hill.  I see it tumbling and rolling head over heels down the forty feet and momentarily wonder if it is hurt.  Not so as it rapidly gains its feet and moves smartly on the valley floor continuing in its same direction of travel and AWAY from us. Susan actually manages to get a photo of it.  The photo preceding it is of the same bear as Susan first sees it coming up the hill and assumes it will not keep advancing….only it does and seems to her to have an increased interest in her.  In fact it moves into a trot and it is at that point that Susan decides it is good to come back to me so I can serve appropriately as bear bait. (No comment, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”)

Mr Bear after he tumbled over the side, a lot less concerned over his adventure than we were

END OF BILL’S ACCOUNT

And as if that weren’t enough adventure for one day, about two miles further down the road, as we were coasting down the east side of Sable Pass, still mulling over the bear encounter, we see another bear walking on the road.  My comment was, “Not another one.”  This bear knew that we were veterans and smartly took his cue to yield the road, but not before rising to sniff the air and check us out.  In both cases, we followed the NPS bear safety procedures, and are happy to report that they worked!  The following day, we made the requisite  bear encounter report to the Park Rangers.

Just another day in paradise

Back in Denali, where yesterday I biked the Park Road from the visitors center to Savage River and back.  I remember the first time I biked this section of the road, I thought the first hill would never end!  I am now much better prepared physically and mentally for this seven mile uphill peddle.  I don’t need to keep asking myself, “Will this hill ever end?” as I know exactly where the top is.  The first 15 miles of the Park Road are paved, so compared to the gravel road beyond (west) of Savage River this is a smooth ride.  Of course, since the first seven miles are uphill, the last seven are a nice long, relaxing downhill!  Considering the bear encounters on our RT ride from Teklanika to Polychrome several weeks ago, I felt much safer on this stretch of road.  Oh, I still need to write up that adventure.

Savage River

Along the Park Road

Lupine along the Park Road

Road Trip

A couple peach smoothies, junk food, four Siberian huskies, and a drive to Denali Park, what a great day!  Yesterday we drove to Denali just to run in the Park with the boys.  In another week the shuttle buses will begin running for the summer, traffic and people will increase exponentially and the Park Road will be closed to private vehicles west of the Savage River bridge.  On the bright side, the ice cream place will be open!

Despite the incessant wind, it was a beautiful day; blue sky, snow covered mountains, Mt  McKinley visible behind a haze, and the boys and us sharing our favorite place.  Even though they ride everywhere with us around Fairbanks, the boys don’t go on very many road trips.  Being older, Clem and ET have been on enough trips that they settle down quickly, unless there is food around, however, the redheads are relative novices.  This was their third trip to Denali in as many weeks, and each week has shown improvement in their willingness to settle down for the ride.  I can actually say that yesterday I came home less stressed than when I left, which was not the case the previous two trips with them.  Pelly still prefers to ride with his head in my shoulder or in my lap (not  good idea when I am driving!), but he no longer insists on sitting on the center console all the way.  His constant vigilance has earned him the nickname “Curious George.”

We had a great run, and now the truth comes out.  After running we headed to Prospector Pizza (opened for the season last Friday) for a pizza and an Alaskan Summer Ale!

One of the few photos I took, if I could download my memory there would be a beautiful kaleidoscope to share

Some caribou grazing by Savage River

Springtime in Denali

With taxes finally paid, we decided to treat ourselves to a day in Denali.  The spring road opening crews have been doing a great job, and on Saturday, the road was opened to private vehicles to the Teklanika rest area.  We loaded the boys, and the circus hit the road.  No matter what time of the year, Denali is magnificent.

Savage River, looking toward the park entrance

No matter what time of the year, Denali Park is magnificent!

Spring road opening equipment parked just west of Primrose

The remainder of a 14' drift just west of Primrose

Clem enjoying a pit stop at the Visitors Center parking lot

Running in Denali

On Sunday I had an irresistible urge to run with the boys in Denali.  This is always one of those things where, after about 15 minutes on the road with the redheads going crazy fighting for a front row seat, we look at each other and ask “whose idea was this?”  I drove down, figuring Bill could handle dog control duties, and knowing (or at least hoping) that they would be calmer by the return trip.  “They” refers to the redheads, Clem and ET always settle quickly.  When we left Fairbanks it was sunny, but as we approached Denali clouds were rolling in, and by the time we started running it was snowing and blowing.  But any day in the park is a good day.  Road crews had started spring road opening on March 16, and by March 21 the Park Road was open to the public to the Mountain Vista trailhead at mile 13.  We parked by the trailhead and ran to the Savage River checkpoint at mile 15.  Although there were a couple cars parked by the trailhead, once we started running behind the barricade, we didn’t see another person, the park was ours.  It was so good to be back in the park after a long winter away, and I could feel myself beginning to revitalize.  We saw and heard a lot of ptarmigan and there was wolf scat on the road around mile 13.5, all of which had the boys in overdrive.

We started running from where the road was closed at the Savage River campground

Looking toward the park entrance from west of the Savage River checkpoint at mile 15. The truck brought in some of the heavy equipment used to clear the road.

The McKinley Chalet boarded up for the winter, there is nothing open in the park during winter.

Pelly (aka Curious George) on duty, he takes this responsibility very seriously.

More photos coming to the gallery soon!





Skiing in Denali Park

I have been dreaming about Denali Park ever since our end of season visit there for the Road Lottery drive-in September 19th.  On Friday everything fell into place (nice weather, daylight, time) and we left the boys at Muttessori, threw the backcountry skis and a bunch of junk food in the Jeep and made our merry way to the Park.  The roads in the hills by our house still wear an inch of ice from the Thanksgiving week icepocalypse, and we were a bit concerned about the highway, but it was clear and dry once we were several miles out of Fairbanks.  It was a picture perfect day:  sunny, clear, cloudless, blue sky and 30 degrees in the Park!  Mt McKinley was basking in the sunshine.

The easy access to the Riley Creek was blocked off by a construction storage yard, so we had to work our way through the woods down a narrow, winding, snowshoe trail.  A snowshoe can meander through the woods on a lot tighter trail than can 6 foot long skis, so after a while, I took off my skis and walked.  The snow was punchy and I kept sinking up to my knees or higher.  For that reason, Bill kept his skis on, carefully and slowly negotiating the trail.  He is more patient than I.  The snow on Riley Creek was deep, and the only trail was at least a foot deep and also originally made by snowshoes, and used by skiers. The warmest kick wax I have is VR55, just short of sticky klister, and it was somewhat effective in the shade (in the beginning), but slippery in the sun.  I didn’t take the time to put a binder on the skis, and that would have helped preserve the wax, but nothing was going to cut into my time in the sun in the Park.  Despite being a lot more challenging than we had anticipated, we enjoyed the skiing and savored being in the Park in mid March.  I had skied Riley Creek by myself last March, and it was perfect in every way.  There was only one ski track going up the creek and it was easy to follow, allowing me to easily ski farther up Riley Creek than we did Friday, but any day in the Park is a good day!  Rather than retrace the snowshoe trail back to the Jeep, we skied back to the train station and walked about a mile down the Park Road to the Jeep.

The Denali Park Spring Road Opening is underway, and  the countdown to opening the road to private vehicles has begun!  Oh how I would love to ride along in one of the dozers!  In about a month we will be able to drive as far as Teklanika, until the tourist season begins around Memorial Day weekend and the Park Road is restricted beyond savage River.

Snow blowing across the Parks Highway as we passed through Healy on the way to Denali

Bill skiing up Riley Creek

Bill climbing out of a snow hole on Riley Creek

Me taking a photo on Riley Creek

This was a long slippery climb, next time I'll use the binder before waxing!

There are more photos in my gallery.

Hiking on Primrose Ridge & Mt Margaret (Denali Park)

Okay, time for another update and recreation of the past.  It’s been a bit chilly in Fairbanks this week, ranging 20-30 below downtown and about 10-15 below in the hills.  After my last ski attempt, I had all my cross country skis cleaned and waxed, and I’m waiting for it to warm (better glide) a bit before heading out on the trails.  It took about three nights in the thermal bag to salvage my skate skis.  So, I guess that being able to classical ski with skate skis is not a good thing!  In the meantime, we’re running with the boys, who love this cold weather!  So it is with warmer weather in mind that I look to the past and recreate hiking on Primrose Ridge in Denali Park.

I’ve had this hike in mind for several years, and this summer (2010) I finally located the “trailhead.”   Don’t ask park rangers for the trailhead, because this is not a maintained trail and therefore doesn’t have a sanctioned trailhead, just ask them where to access Primrose Ridge.  They seem squeamish about using “trailhead” for what is a backcountry trail.  Primrose Ridge and Mt Margaret are mutually inclusive.  As far as the trail, you can follow line of sight to the top, meander along animal footpaths or follow whatever path there may be.

The access to Primrose Ridge is about two miles west of the Savage River checkpoint, which means you must be creative about getting there, because private vehicles are restricted west of the Savage River Bridge during the summer season.  You can take one of the buses or you can park your vehicle at Savage River and either walk in or bike in to the access points, which, by the way, are not marked.  We chose to bike in from Savage River, which, despite being only two miles, is two miles uphill. A good access point is across from the rest stop (handicapped parking area), but since there is no formal trailhead, you can head up Primrose wherever the going looks good.  You may have to hike through some alders for a while, but will emerge to a wide open panorama.

Primrose Ridge is an easy hike, and the panorama is stunning, well worth any effort expended to view it.  It is an unobstructed, 380 degree rejuvenation.  I find myself not wanting to take my eyes off it, thinking that if I continue to soak it up it will be imprinted in my memory forever.  Even the best photo cannot do it justice, unless you can take a 360 degree photograph.  Aside from the view, other nice things about Primrose are that it is relatively accessible, easy, and doable as a day hike.  Oh, and Mt McKinley is visible from Primrose!  Be careful that the long daylight hours don’t lull you into a false sense of security, because if you are dependent on taking the last shuttle bus from Savage River, you need to come back to reality and check your watch.

You can hike Primrose as an out and back or you can follow your sense of direction east to a rocky outcrop where the “trail” descends to Savage River about a mile north of the Savage River Bridge.  We haven’t tried this yet, but it is on the radar.

Bill emerging from the alders at one of the access points to Primrose Ridge

Bill hiking down Primrose Ridge. Once you crest the ridge, it seems like you can hike forever!

Bill biking to Primrose from Savage River

A late afternoon shadow on Primrose

Enjoying the view from Primrose Ridge with the Park Road in the foreground

An evening view of Mt McKinley from Primrose Ridge. This is one reason you won't want to leave.

I met this caribou while hiking up Primrose Ridge, it was a surprise for both of us!

Bill hiking up Primrose enjoying the autumn vibrancy

For more photos of Primrose Ridge, visit the following galleries: Denali Autumn Tapestry and Primrose Ridge

Teklanika Bike Ride (May 2010)

Okay, I’m continuing with my attempt to recreate some of the lost posts.  There is no particular order to this, just whatever I feel like tackling.

Our favorite lodge in the Denali Park area (McKinley Village Lodge) opened for the season on May 24, so we headed down that way for a couple days.  The first day we hiked the Triple Lakes Trail from end to end and the next day we rode our bikes from Teklanika out (east) to the Wilderness Access Center, about 30 miles.  To do this requires a bit of planning, which isn’t our specialty.  Then again, maybe the problem is in the execution.

First, a few words on  Park operations.  The Park Road is not maintained during the winter, and once snow falls it is closed at the Park Headquarters (mile 3) until after the Spring Road Opening, at which time private vehicles may access the Park as far as the Teklanika Campground at mile 29.  Once the summer season starts and tour buses start running, the Park Road is closed to private vehicles at Savage River, mile 15.  At the end of the season, mid-September, the Park Road opens to Wonder Lake (weather permitting) for four days to winners of the Denali Park Road Lottery.  Once the lottery drive-in ends, the road is once again open to Teklanika until conditions dictate its closure.  The Park Road is paved as far as Savage River, after that it is dirt/gravel.

Memorial Day was May 31, so the full shuttle bus schedule into the Park was not yet in effect and tourist traffic was still light.  We made reservations for us and our bicycles on a camper bus that dropped us off at Teklanika (mile 29), although we could have gone as far as the Eielson Visitors Center, about 66 miles.  The buses to Wonder Lake don’t run until the first week of June.  It was tempting to go beyond Tek, but discretion being the better part of valor, we settled on the 30 mile ride.  The bus dropped us off and we unloaded our bikes and gear, then waved goodbye as the bus pulled away on its way to the Eielson Visitors Center.  The round trip to Eielson is about 5 to 6 hours, depending on wildlife sitings, and, although we had no time schedule, we had hoped to beat the bus back to the Wilderness Access Center.  It was an absolutely perfect day, and I was so excited about the ride, as it was something I had wanted to do for a long time.  We had packed plenty of snacks and beverages and stuffed them everywhere we could before biking off down the road.  We took our time, enjoying the majesty of the park and the Utopian day.  It was Nirvana: paradise, heaven, bliss, ecstasy, joy, peace, serenity, tranquility.  Several years ago I became frustrated with flat tires and switched to kevlar lined tires, and I have blissfully biked without a single flat ever since.  Not so, Bill.  After peddling the long climb before a nice 2 mile downhill coast to Savage River, Bill got a flat tire.  No problem, right,  3 spare tubes to choose from.  Not so fast, all 3 were bad.  It took us about an hour to get a fix and move on, during which time we waved at a few buses, including our camper bus, as they passed by.  East of Savage River the road was paved and the riding smooth.  Despite the flat, it was a great ride, and we earned our pizza, beer and ice cream.

I consider biking in Denali Park a privilege, and I still have a goal to bike the entire 92 mile length of the Park Road, I just need to either work the logistics to avoid camping or get in shape to bike it all in one day.

Nirvana. Mt McKinley, all 20,320 feet. My Inspiration.

Bill fixing his flat tire

There are more photos in my gallery.

Triple Lakes Hike (Denali)

Since not much is happening here right now, I thought I would summarize some of the earlier blog posts that were lost when the old site was taken offline.

The Triple Lakes trailhead is just off the Parks Highway about seven miles south of the Denali Park entrance at the north side of the Nenana River bridge (mile 231.3).  I should probably say the southern trailhead, because with the late summer 2010 completion of the footbridge across Riley Creek, and recent trail improvement on the north end, there may now be an actual northern trailhead accessible from the railway station or the visitors center.  I say that because of our experience hiking the trail end to end last May (2010), which I will get to later.

We have hiked this trail numerous times and enjoy it for its beautiful vistas (it’s Denali, that goes without saying!) and versatility as either an out and back trail or an end-to-end trail (7 or 8 miles).  If you hike to the end of the third lake and back, it is about 5 miles.  The trail on this end is excellent with opportunities to drop off onto the unbeaten path.  I’m not a fan of out and back, once I get on a trail I want to go wherever it goes, see what is around the next bend.  So, after several out and back hikes on Triple Lakes from the south trailhead, I had pushed Bill around so many “just one more bends” that we were well beyond the halfway point and were determined to venture on to the north end of the trail.  For the most part, this is a great trail with ongoing maintenance and improvement.  The trail was in great shape and easy to follow until the last couple miles when it descends from the ridge down to Riley Creek at the northern end.  At this point there were signs indicating that trail work (rerouting) was in progress and to follow the old trail, which we kept losing as it was either overgrown, washed out, underwater, poorly marked or all the above.  When we finally made it to Riley Creek it was too deep and fast to traverse, something we were aware of because it was May and melting snow and ice made the runoff furious.  We knew we had to take the forbidden passage across the Alaska Railroad bridge, which made it so much more sweet, and  after all, was a perk associated with completing the trek.

Toward the end of summer 2010 the park service completed the bridge (awesome!) across Riley Creek, and there were signs of trail improvement from the north end. This coming summer we will start the hike from the north end and check it out.  I can’t wait!

Bill walking across planks on a soggy trail before the trail climbs (south end)

Gaining elevation along the triple lakes trail

The second and third lakes along the triple lakes trail

The panoramic views are worth every ounce of effort

The trail on the north end heading toward Riley Creek

Crossing the forbidden bridge was oh so sweet!

The long-awaited bridge across Riley Creek (Aug 2010)

There are  many more photos in my gallery, see August 2009 and May 2010!