Aichilik River

Hiking along the Aichilik River

Aichilik RiverDrifting off to sleep my first night in the Aichilik River Valley I hear, or perhaps imagine, the distant howling of Canis lupus. Wolves enter my dreams and celebrate a successful hunt with wolf song.

Several hours later I’m awakened by the cries of Homo sapiens, singing the praises of a glorious arctic morning. I quickly leave my tent and join the others for breakfast beneath a cloudless cerulean sky. Stirred by breezes that keep mosquitoes away, the late-summer air is surprisingly warm. By midmorning our thermometer registers 680F in the shade and in sunlight the air is 10 to 15 degrees warmer.

Denali-Highway-mountain-landscape

The Denali Highway – Mountains and Landscape

Denali-Highway-mountain-landscapeThe Alaska Range follows a broad arc for 650 miles, from Cook Inlet on Alaska’s west coast through the Denali massif and onward to the Canadian border. The Denali Highway passes through alpine tundra, paralleling this band of mountains to the south. Peaks like Mt. Hayes at 13,832′, Hess at 11,940′, and Mt. Deborah at 12,339′ dominate the skyline.

To the southeast, the Wrangell Mountains rise even higher. Although almost 80 miles away, Mt. Sanford at 16,237′ rises prominently, flanked by Mt Drum and Mt. Wrangell. As the northernmost active volcano on the Pacific Rim, Wrangell may at any time be venting steam into the Arctic air.