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The Denali Highway – Hiking

Denali-Highway-hikingThose wanting to take a break from the bike or car will find plenty of opportunities for strolling into the wilderness. Just beyond the Tangle Lakes, the Amphitheater Mountains jut out from the Alaska Range. A glacier carved a large hole through the mountains, Landmark Gap. A long finger of water has filled the bottom of the gap and the snowy caps of Mount Moffit and McGinnis Peak rise beyond it. Landmark Gap Lake is a great destination for an easy dayhike or overnighter. The route is a five-mile round trip along an old dirt track to the south shore. Trails extend along the lake and hikers can proceed through the gap to the north slope of the Amphitheaters.

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The Denali Highway – Wildlife Watching and Birding

Denali-Highway-wildlifeThe alpine tundra and lake districts are home to a fabulous diversity of wildlife. Moose, black and grizzly bears, and caribou roam the open spaces and forests. Bald eagles, gyrfalcons and long-tailed jaegers circle overhead. Trumpeter swans, ptarmigan, loons and more birdlife are common.

The BLM, which administers the highway, recommends several spots for wildlife watching. Mud Lake just out of Paxson is a clear shallow lake frequented by trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and moose. Sockeye salmon can be seen in the waters. Fiftymile Lake is another good place for spotting swans, bald eagles and moose, along with grizzly, caribou and beaver. Caribou migrate through an area west of the Susitna River.

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The Denali Highway Fishing

Denali-Highway-fishingThe lakes along the Denali Highway are Arctic Grayling territory. These cousins of the trout typically mature to 13 ounces, though the Alaska state record tips the scales at 4 pounds higher. They are easily fished from May to September and have a reputation for hitting just about anything, bait, lures or flies. The BLM recommends ten spots along the highway for grayling: Ten Mile Lake (mile 10), Tangle Lakes (mile 23), Landmark Gap Lake (mile 25), Rock Creek (mile 25), Fiftymile Lake (mile 50), Glacier Lake (mile 31), Sevenmile Lake (mile 40), Crooked Creek (mile 47), and Brushkana Creek ( mile 105).

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Kayaking Glacier Bay

The Beardslee Island Group Offers Pristine Scenery and Waters

Kayaking-Glacier-BayMy wife, Laurie, and I leave Bartlett Cove too late, half an hour after high tide and a noticeable current is already running. Against this ebb tide we must make our way into the Beardslees. The excitement of being here at last, kayaking waters of Glacier Bay, powers our paddles, and we slide easily through the placid waters.The islands and islets are as we had imagined, densely forested with trees, presenting an even, sculptured contour. Many of the low-lying islands have few trees, or trees that are not very tall. At first we attribute this to poor soil nutrients; then it slowly dawns that these islands are new. They have only recently become islands due to uplift, and the forest upon them is much younger than those on islands of higher elevations. We are elated to recognize graphic evidence of rapid geologic change in Glacier Bay.

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The Denali Highway

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Hike, Bike, Paddle and Explore along the Original Gateway to Denali National Park

Ten thousand years ago, hunters waited for the caribou around the Tangle Lakes, patiently chipping stones they would use as tools and weapons. A century ago, W. G. Jack struck gold near Valdez Creek, and within a few years, miners were pouring into the area. Mushers would soon run supplies to the gold camps along the dog-sled trail connecting Paxson and Cantwell. And when Denali National Park opened, the route became the gateway to the spectacular land surrounding North America’s highest peak.

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The Denali Highway – History and Prehistory

Denali-Highway-historyThe Tangle Lakes area contains some of the earliest and most continuous evidence of human occupation in North America, extending back more than 10,000 years. At least four cultures occupied the area: the Denali Complex from 10,500 to 7,000 years ago; the Northern Archaic Tradition from 7,000 to 1,000 years ago; the Late Prehistoric Period from 1,000 years ago to 1770, and the current Athapaskan Tradition.

Over 400 archaeological sites dot the area. About 225,000 acres are officially designated as the BLM’s Tangle Lakes Archaeological District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The District is wide open to exploring and recreation. But remember the area is covered by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, which prohibits collecting or damaging any artifacts or sites.

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McNeil River Sanctuary

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A Gathering of Bears

We have barely finished storing away food and setting up tents among tall meadow plants when a family of brown bears comes ambling down the narrow sand beach that fronts our camp. The bears are walking slowly, without menace, eating as they go. Still, they’re moving ever closer. In the lead is a large female with a beautiful milk chocolate-colored coat that has not yet begun to shed. And trailing her in single file are four tiny cubs. Darker than their mom, the cubs were born in January or February. Only a pound or so at birth, the largest of the four in late July weighs 25 to 30 pounds. The runt of the litter weighs half as much; incredibly small and fragile-looking, he has the cute appeal of a real live teddy bear.

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Alaska Regional Roundup

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365 Million Acres of Adventure

I’m a born-and-bred Alaskan with eighteen-plus years to my credit — and yet I’ve spent most of that time in one small corner of the state. No matter where you think you’ve been or what you think you’ve done, you cannot pull a”been there, done that” attitude in the Last Frontier. It’s just too big and too diverse. Within this single state there are 365 million acres of rushing freshwater rivers and crashing salty coastline; towering peaks and flat expanses; tufty tundra and lush rain forest. Separate Alaska by region and you have four very different destinations.

Even clipping along at a million acres a day, covering Alaska would take an entire year. We cannot exhaustively explore (or even describe) the forty-ninth state, so here’s a taste of what each region is like:

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Long Trails of the Southeast

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Eight states, over 600 miles of long-distance hiking

This article profiles over 600 varied miles of long trails, from the cypress swamps of South Florida to the high mountains of North Carolina. Each offers its own beauty and challenges. The Wild Azalea Trail, the shortest of the trails at 26 miles, is Louisiana’s longest footpath. It will surprise visitors as it rambles over pine-covered hills into lush bottomlands where clear, sand-bottomed streams flow. Wetlands abound in these creek bottoms, locally known as bayous, where the cypress trees grow tall. The 41-mile Black Creek Trail of Mississippi runs along the course of the federally designated Wild and Scenic Black Creek, amid cypress swamps, by sugar-white sandbars, and through hardwood forests with amazingly large trees.

The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail

The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail

The Natchez Trace National Scenic TrailThe Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail lies within the boundaries of the Natchez Trace Parkway, extending for 450 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. The most historic in nature of the National Scenic Trails, the Parkway commemorates the historic Natchez Trace, an ancient path that began as a Native American trail.