I was nearly in tears within the first hour of our visit into Denali National Park. After stopping in at the Visitor Center, Bookstore, and Wilderness Access Center, I still had no clue where we could go hiking.
“You mean there are absolutely NO trails, except for these ones right at the park entrance?” I asked the park ranger incredulously.
“Yes. It was designated wilderness to preserve and protect the wildlife.” The ranger explained.
“Ok…” I said with a sigh, “Can you even give me any suggestions of places that might be good to take a walk?” I asked, the confusion creeping into my voice.
“Oh, well you can get off the bus and hike or walk absolutely anywhere you want.” The ranger explained.
“Thanks,” I replied, my voice dropping and a sad look coming onto my face.
How in the world was I going to figure out the best place to hike? There were no trails. No one had any suggestions. The park’s area is six million acres- how could I figure out where to start? (By the way, at 6 million acres the park is bigger than the entire state of Massachusetts!!!!)
So, our first day in the park we took the bus to the end of the park road. We looked at wildlife and scouted out places to hike. This brought me great relief, there were endless places to hike and I noticed that if you were to walk up the gravel glacial riverbeds, you wouldn’t even need to trample through the thigh high tundra bushes. Yay! I got really excited about the hiking opportunities!
I picked Geode Mountain as our first hiking destination. It looked like there was an easy approach to the mountain, good views from the top, and the climb would not be that steep. Well, I was right about one thing— good views from the top.
Ok, ok, I’ll give myself a little more credit here, I was right about one and a half things. The approach should have been easy. All we had to do was follow the riverbed. My detour onto the tundra ended up turning into a two hour bushwhack through thigh high bushes… but anyways…
The thing I was definitely incorrect about was the steepness. Once we reached the mountain itself we were both quickly out of breath. The hike was short, a half mile at the absolute most, but we easily ascended over 1500 feet in that distance. Oh, but the views from the top! Mountains galore, and not a single person or car in sight. Sitting at the top of the mountain, I silently thanked the park rangers who had the foresight to preserve the park as wilderness. “You were right,” I thought to myself, “This is how this landscape should be, true wilderness.”