Saturday, September 18, 2010


Days 28-30
I left the treehouse after a bagel and cream cheese breakfast and set out to Denali, after much anticipation.  But I dropped the ball big time since I showed up an hour after the last shuttle bus on the last day of the season.  See, you can only drive the first twenty miles, but the tour bus service closes in the "winter," which came on Sept 16.  I made the mistake of not looking up when the winter began.  No one could pull any strings for me even though I had driven up from Texas.  I was irate for hours, until the guy at the Wilderness Services building suggested I apply for a backcountry permit and watch an instructional/survival video.  I chose Slot 25 (a twenty-five square mile area) to camp in overnight along with my bear proof container.  Denali is an amazing park because there are no trails to hike, its all open tundra, so the stakes and wildlife viewing opportunities are higher. 
More Alaska weirdness. 

But my bad luck had not diminished: I was cooking Reindeer sausage for dinner with rice when I realized that I had left my down comforter at the hostel 125 miles away!  I thought about leaving it and buying a new sleeping bag, but I could not afford it.  Plus, I would need it overnighting in the park since the weather can change dramatically; some nights during the summer it has dropped down to -35 degrees (see when its really cold, I get inside my +25 degree mummy sleeping bag and then cacoon in the down comforter as well).  So I bit the bullet and drove back to get it, stayed another night in the treehouse with my roommate Larry and passed out.
North America's big one.
Yesterday, I woke up fairly early, washed my dishes, had eggs, and headed back out to Denali.  Along the way, I saw a hitch hiker who raised his hands in the air as I drove by, as if to say, "Come on, help me, its cold."  I felt sympathy for him, turned around and picked him up.  Jimmy, ended up being a nice change of pace for a the 100 mile stretch of the drive.  He told me some interesting things about Alaska, since he had moved up here to work from Baltimore.  Things like: in the jails of AK, you pay to serve your time, so whatever you do, Do Not wind up in jail.  That was the first thing he said that made my nervous.  Then he said, "EAT MOOSE, 4 MILLION WOLVES DO!"  Or that he supported Sarah Palin... But he was impressed by my trip and he told me to enjoy the wild, which is encouraging to hear.  I dropped him off near the park thinking it may have been a mistake to pick him up regarding my safety, but I let the Lord handle this one.  

I decided that it would be unsafe to go on the backcountry pack trip since its not recommended to do alone, but I thought I would go on a day hike anyway to enjoy the open tundra.  Well, with a day pack and loaded shutgun, I set off.  Within twenty minutes of hiking through dense thicket, I saw a huge, bail of hay-sized shadow.  I inched up closer and a female moose, sitting down, turned her head and adjusted her ears to hear me.  I should mention that a portion of Slot 25 is sectioned off as No Entry since there is a large conglomeration of moose that are in the rut (mating), which means that the bulls are aggressive and territorial.  Since I knew this, I started my hike about three miles west of that area, but the moose were everywhere.  Having known that more people are injured or killed by moose than bears in the US, I was cautious and slowly wakled to the left of her.  Within seconds, I heard a bull grunting and start trotting, although I could not see him.  I had my shotgun ready in case it was my time to go (I felt my bowels move no joke) and I think it false charged because I made sure he could hear me and in a slow and calm voice, I backed away.  I said, thats it, Denali, you win this time and headed back and out of the park.  

Denali/Mt. McKinley: I did get to see the big one from about sixty miles away, and since the skies were abnormally clear, I took lots of photos.  Its wild to think that it towers over 10,000 Ft peaks standing just over 20,000 ft.  It was an emotional moment because I was let down by my lack of planning and yet the mountain was just superbly immense.  I left, anxious to return and maybe one day to climb it.  I should also mention that some people fly out to see Denali and due to inclement weather never get to see it.  My Dad for example, only got to see the peak for fifteen minutes when he went a really really long time ago (just kidding haha). 

From there, I continued South to Anchorage and found some fishy creeks which had fish in them because I found my first two decomposing salmon carcasses.  I took a couple small grayling and then made Ramen noodles with a couple of eggs, repacked my car, and passed out. 
Willow Creek
More bear signs. 
Today, I drove through Willow and Wasilla (where Sarah Palin is from) and fished three unproductive rivers/river mouths.   I got in contact with a salty river guide named George who invited me to his place to show me some spots to fish on a map.   In a very caffeinated tone, he said, "Do you have a gun? Good, you'll need it because where Im suggesting you go is real bear country."  I get to the spot and were talking chest high brush, extreme fog, almost no casting space, and a narrow creek that held no fish.  An adrenaline rush wakes you up more quickly than any amount of coffee and it is also more addicting.  I learned that fishing for salmon is different than for trout.  Salmon are on the move to their original spawning beds, not caring about the water temprature, clarity, or what the weather is doing.  So when someone suggests where they think the fishing may be productive, they mean that they may be there because water that seems perfect to hold fish (like trout) may be temporarily barren.  Then I fished the mouth of two rivers and found LOTS of bear tracks.  I headed out after realizing that I know very little about salmon fishing.  Rivers are huge, the trout follow the salmon up stream, and the silt in the water makes it impossible to know where the fish are.  Hopefully my luck increases as steeply as this learning curve is.  

Mud crusted salmon. 
I got to Anchorage about 6:30 PM had a Chinese dinner and am staying at a Hostel while researching the rest of my route.  Other tasks include laundry and relaxing.  

1 comment:

  1. Ansel,
    Your blog is great to follow; the photos are tremendous. You are truly making an epic trip for yourself complete with some missteps and fortuitous encounters. Don't be too hard on yourself; it's easy to do especially when you are alone. Talked to Nick tonight. He would love for your to call him. His number is 907-821-8195. He is really looking forward to seeing you. We are getting a huge kick out of reading your entries. Bug