Saturday, August 29, 2015

Snow comes to Denali

We had our first snow of the season today. The peaks and high ridges have had fresh powder for a few days. Today the flakes flurried around the hotels. They didn't stick to the ground because the ground is still too warm. It was 32 degrees this morning, the ground was covered with slush as we walked up to breakfast at the Grande. All day long, the temperature stayed low and the rain was steady. I worked from 9-6, then this evening took a night jog over into the park. I jogged for 25 minutes, got warmed up and then stopped along the Riley Creek Trail to pick lingon berries. I picked sixteen ounces, then jogged for another ten minutes. Then I came upon another thick patch of berries and couldn't resist more picking. I had a cold jog back to the hotel after the picking was finished. Flurries of snow fell on my arms. Darkness is complete now by 10pm. I am grateful to be in my warm housing unit, with the space heater assisting the wall heaters. Winter is coming! 

View of Mount Healy from the Grande Denali Lodge

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fall Hike up Mount Healy

This has been a summer full of work and worrying. My job as employee housing manager has proven emotionally draining and difficult. Even so, Reed & I have gotten out to enjoy the landscape on a regular basis. We've had our days off together almost all summer, which has meant that we've had two days per week with which to recuperate and explore. In terms of weather, summer has come and gone. It is now rainy fall here in Denali. The temperatures remain well above freezing here in the canyon, but up high, there is new snow and howling winds. I know firsthand how cold it is up on the peaks because yesterday we climbed one. Mount Healy overlook trail departs from the entrance area of Denali Park.

 After reaching the Overlook, we continued up, on the "un-maintained trail." There isn't much brush up on the ridges, so an un-maintained trail was just fine, until we came to the outcroppings, which were scary to go around. I have grown increasingly afraid of heights over the years, even as my love for being up high, especially on ridges, has grown. 

It took us about four hours to reach the top. Along the way, we passed gorgeous patches of plants in gorgeous displays of color. A bonus was finding blueberries and lingon berries along the way. The higher peaks that are visible from the Denali Bluffs came into closer view, as we climbed. We needed to keep moving in order to stay warm. It's a challenge to keep one's body temperature regulated when balancing the massive sweatiness that comes from exertion with the chilling effects of wind and falling temperatures 

At last, we reached the top. We were in a cloud, so we didn't get any sweeping views from having reached the top. I did get a sense of satisfaction, though, and I insisted on climbing to the top of the very highest part, just on principle. At the top,  the temperature was just above freezing. We quickly changed into dry shirts, added back our layers on top and began our descent with cold pains in our hands and forearms. 


As we descended, the temperature around us and inside of us rose. The cold pains in my hands left me and the panic in my chest at being in a cloud left as we began to have visibility again.


I do so love the look of a trail extending out before me on a mountain ridge! It was a sweet descent, as our tired bodies carried us to the warmer climate of the canyon floor.

Here's our final excellent view, from back at the Mount Healy Overlook. 

Upon our return to the employee dining room at the Grande Denali, we remembered that we would be celebrating 'Christmas in Denali' with a Bulgarian Christmas dinner. The luscious meal was a delightful way to be rewarded after a tough hike.