Denali National Park & Hayes Range
July 26 - August 3, 2022

After waiting out a couple weeks of horrible weather in Anchorage, the forecast finally started to clear up a little bit (which just that there might be occasional days where it wouldn't rain constantly) so I drove a few hours north toward Denali. While awaiting a weather window to fly over the mountains, I decided to go into the park itself for a quick overnight adventure. There's only one road into the park; it's about 90 miles long and goes out to an awesome spot called Wonder Lake. Unfortunately the road was closed at about mile 45 all summer due to landslides. I considered trying to rent a bike or just walking a very long way starting from the road closure to get out to Wonder Lake but didn't feel very good about 90 miles of solo travel in grizzly territory. Instead, I used Google Earth to identify a ridge near the road at about mile 15 that would offer views of Denali in the distance. I drove out there in the evening and parked at around 11pm as the sun was setting, casting a deep red light on the mountains. It had just snowed the day before (in late July!) and the jagged mountains felt incredibly wild and imposing (and these are just little tiny foothills compared to the real giants of the Alaska Range). At around midnight, I started thrashing my way up the hillside through a couple thousand vertical feet of dense brush while shouting in ~15 second intervals at any nearby megafauna to leave me the *expletive* alone. I made it up without incident and slept on top of the ridge. I came to find that my newly-bought inflatable sleeping pad has an R-value of approximately zero, as I woke up after a couple hours shivering in the fetal position despite it not being that cold and having a sleeping bag that was plenty warm enough. But the approaching sunrise was enough to make me quickly forget about such corporeal matters and focus on photography instead. It was a lot more cloudy than the forecast had predicted, and despite Denali being totally obscured from view it was still awesome to be up here looking out over the mountains and vast plains. The soft morning light interacting with the clouds made for interesting shooting conditions. I also came across a herd of what I think were caribou. I found it to be quite a profound experience although I don't think it was mutual as they seemed rather annoyed by my presence. On the way back down I took a route that was devoid of bushwhacking and far superior to the way I came up the night before. I was back down to the road in about 10 minutes and walked the mile back to my car as the first tour buses of the day drove past. Later that evening I was lucky enough to see these epic mountains from the air.

Dinnertime on my birthday the day before heading into Denali NP

One evening about a week later I drove east into the Hayes Range, a subrange of the Alaska Range, to go see Mount Deborah. The drive paralleling the south side of the Hayes Range was really wonderful. I was particularly captivated by a roadside lake with two swans and wild blueberries galore. I drove for about two hours until getting to the Susitna River where I slept that night and shot photos the next morning. The sunrise light was by no means epic, but I quite like the resulting photo of Mount Deborah and Mount Hess towering above the Susitna River that morning. After inhaling a large portion of oatmeal I drove back to the paved highway and headed south to get ready for a backpacking trip into the Talkeetna Mountains.

Mount Deborah (center) & Mount Hess (right)

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