We slept late, and eventually stepped out of the tent to retrieve the bear canisters. Boiling water for coffee, we were surprised to see that our neighbor was still in camp, on his feet and looking around the area.
“Hey!” he called out to us, “Did you see those bears?”
“What? What bears?”
“Yeah, just now! A mom with two cubs ran right up over there, past where you cooked last night, and went that way!” he said, pointing toward Contact Creek, where we’d come up yesterday.
“Maybe you can still see them!” He looked over his shoulder
We hurried up to his position on top of the hill.
“Nah,” he said, “They were up on that ridge over there, and I think they were trying to find a way down. They must be down in the canyon now.”
We’d just missed the show. I had an uncanny knack for not seeing any bears while on foot in Denali so far… not that I’m complaining! We saw one at the beginning of our hike to Cabin Creek, but that didn’t quite count, because we were still standing on the Park Road.
So a female with cubs essentially ran next to our tent, just moments ago. This confirmed what we knew all along… that we were among grizzly bears for all this time, and simply hadn’t seen or stumbled upon any of them yet. It was encouraging to think that our constant calls of “Hey bear!” weren’t in vain.
I’d thought it was unlikely for bears to come up to the higher elevations (almost 5,000 feet here). But then again, this mountain pass serves as convenient travel corridor.
We enjoyed our breakfast and our hot, caffeinated beverages, and got on with the day. Male grizzlies are know to be cannibals, even preying on their own offspring, so we wondered if the sow had been chased up here because of such a situation.
The day delightful – sunny, clear, and warm… with a bright blue sky that shined on the cascading creek.
Wolverine Creek went on to join and become Crystal Creek. We crossed a wide expanse of land at the confluence of these three streams – Crystal Creek, Intermittent Creek, and Glacier Creek.
Glacier Creek was much larger than the others – more of a “river.” The guidebook suggested that we ford it here (Above the confluence) to the right/west bank.
The crossing was easy despite the river’s larger character. We would then follow Glacier Creek south toward the Alaska Range for the rest of the day.
Mount Eielson looks like it was plucked right out of the Sierra Nevada Range. Glacier Creek is in the foreground above – you can see why it was recommended to travel on this side of the creek.
Soon it opened up into the familiar terrain of a broad gravel bar. A wicked wind blew in our faces, and grew stronger with each step that we took toward the mountains.
The peaks naturally attracted plenty of clouds, so the day took a gloomy turn. A relentless wind tried to thwart our every move.
Despite the temporary hardship, it was easy to keep my spirits up among such awesome grandeur.
Rather than fording the creek again, or risking getting pinched into the water along the bank to the right, we chose to climb up the rollings hillsides as a bypass.
I knew from the map that these hills formed a relatively thin barrier between Glacier Creek and the massive Muldrow Glacier, but it hadn’t occurred to me until now to climb up and have a look at the glacier.
It was a mildly daunting, uphill task that diverged from our forward progress against the pressing wind, but something told me that the climb would be worth it.
After a couple of false summits, the sight of the desolate glacier before my eyes was a true shock to the senses.
The wind whipped through my ears, and for an instant there was nothing in the world except for the sound of the wind and the giant, sprawling, inhospitable wasteland that was spread out before me.
It was one of the most bleak and threatening landscapes I’d ever seen.
We stood in awe for a couple minutes, as if to try and absorb its raw beauty into our very beings.
The Muldrow Glacier is 25 miles long. It reaches down from Denali’s icy slopes and takes a hard, dog-legged turn seen here, and disappears in the distance to the right. The lower glacier laid out before us is in the heart of the Alaska Range, suddenly making our destination more tangible…
Our destination, Anderson Pass, goes up and over the crest of these intimidating, snow covered Misty Mountains… up and over them to the other side.
At last we reached the place where Glacier Creek disappears into (or, more accurately, comes pouring out of) its own unnamed glacier to the left.
Shortly beyond here, we came to the last grassy area before Anderson Pass that was ideal for camping.
Oh my… it was the most perfect little corner of Denali National Park that we’d seen – windless, green, and wonderful… a dream come true!
A pair of stately caribou were waiting to greet us.
Most caribou we’d seen were nonsensical. These, however, had the gregarious and professional air of a butler, with the sole duty of making us feel welcome to his green estate.
As if all this weren’t enough, there was a clear trickling waterfall that splashed among the green hills from unknown heights above.
We climbed up to the base of the 10-foot waterfall to gather water, and the area consequently became our kitchen and dining room for the evening.
views at dinner
See more photos from Day 2: