denali outerrange

Denali’s Trailless Wilderness

Hiking the Backcountry

denali outerrangeLess than a half-mile from the Denali park road and only ten minutes into our three-night backpacking trip, Dan Hall and I come to a sudden, unplanned stop. Seventy-five feet upstream, a brownish form moves among a clump of creek-bed willows. Then, sensing us, it too becomes still. The bus driver had cautioned us that this valley is prime grizzly habitat and”BEAR” is the first thought to run through my mind. But within moments my imagined grizzly is transformed into a small, rusty brown critter with a long bushy tail: An adult red fox steps slowly out of the willows, a limp ground squirrel clutched in its jaws. Instant relief, tinged with embarrassment. How could I mistake a fox for a bear?

The fox stares at us a few seconds, as though judging our intent. Then, keeping a safe distance, it scurries downstream and quickly disappears around a bend, headed home with breakfast for its litter of kits.


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.


Sipsey Wilderness – Albama

Water and rock: Irresistible force, immovable object. What happens after millions of years of combat between equal adversaries? In the William Bankhead National Forest, the rock holds its ground, the water carves a twisting way through. The result: gorges and bluffs and waterfalls where you can hear the battle continue even now, drop by persistent drop.

Located in northwestern Alabama, the 180,000-acre Bankhead National Forest features a uniquely southern forest ecosystem of yellow pine, hemlock, and magnolia trees watered by the Wild and Scenic West Fork of the Sipsey River. The northeastern part of the Forest features 27 miles of brand-new, multiple-use loop trails open to equestrians, mountain bikes, and foot traffic, along with established primitive campgrounds. The three paths—the Pine Torch Loop, Brushy Loop, and the Key Mill Loop—meander through scenic hardwood forests and along the area’s many streams.