After stocking up in Anchorage we headed to Denali. We stopped for the night in Talkeetna, a small drinking town with a climbing problem. Arriving in Denali the next day we planned out our backpacking trip. We got zones 6 and 7, and planned to hike through zone 8 and get picked up by the bus there. Now, Denali is divided into 80 some odd wilderness zones and they limit the number of people who are allowed to camp in the zone at any given time. This number ranges from 2 to 8 depending on the zone. Before you do anything you have to show up at the backcountry office and reserve your zones and figure out a basic hiking plan. After consulting the ranger and a topo map we figured out our basic route: zones 6 & 7 and hike out of 8. Here are some thoughts on the trip
* Walking on tundra is best experienced by going to a mattress warehouse and lining up random beds and walking across them; some are extra soft, some are hard, some higher, some lower, some are dry, some are soaked and some are little islands in a very wet bog filled. You never know what you are gonna get until you step on one.
* It hailed (yea, it seems hail follows me everywhere...) and snowed while we were hiking in Denali. This caused us to call the trip two days short, as Dave put it "I'm prepared to survive this weather, but I'm not prepared to enjoy it."
* We saw tons of animal tracks: moose, bears (brown and black) and a few other unidentifiable animal. We also saw a lot of Snowshoe Hare fur, most with the feet nearby; we assume killed and eaten, not shed. Along the riverbank we found pieces of a caribou, first the jaw, then the skull and finally the antlers. This is where the comment "Here Kitty, Kitty..." comes in. In dense bush where you don't have a clear view you are supposed to make noise in case there is a bear nearby. One of the worst things to do to a bear is to surprise it, as it will react unpredicabily. The other two are to mess with its cub or disturb its food source. So you make noise to alert the bear you are there and it will most likely move away. "Here Kitty, Kitty.. come and get your food..."
* The picture I'd paint for this part of the trip would be: It's 11pm at night, it's snowing and I'm in my tent reading a book. I'm stripped down and ready to sleep but I need to take a piss. So, I decide to crawl out of my warm comfy sleeping bag and run out into the snow storm in my boxers, t-shirt and Chacos, and take a piss in the tundra. It's still very bright, like late summer afternoon bright and there is snow blowing all around me...
* Dave, Marty and I hiked up to the famous Flattop Mountain in Anchorage. There is a hill there that everyone slides down; it's about 300ft long at least. So Dave on the way up thinks it's too steep but I know he wants to do it. We asked the other hikers about the slide and everyone says they've done it but no one will do that day. Finally Dave meets a local who decides she'll go first, cause Dave said to her "It's not OK to kill the tourists." So after seeing her, her friends and her two dogs make it down fine, Dave and I decide to slide down. Boy was it fun, we were giggling non-stop like schoolboys the whole way down and on the hike out. Would recommend everyone to do it!