8.16.10 – Part One

16 08 2010

Sleeping on a therma rest rarely results in a bright-eyed kind of morning, but today was particularly rough. The remnants of last night’s rain linger in the air, and the ramifications from our campsite choice resound through every inch of my body. I mean, I knew we weren’t choosing the Alaskan wilderness, but I was obviously blinded by some combination of idealism and exhaustion last night. Our logic: there won’t be many cars at night so it won’t be too loud, plus it’s only about a mile from the park entrance so we’ll be first in line in the morning. Our reality: a night sleeping on cement next to a highway of unending semis.

We pack up the tents and climb back into Sally for the quick trip up the road. Our first order of business is to watch the bear video. I did all the reading I could before I left – so I wasn’t sure the video would prove to be too informative, but my eyes are still locked on the screen, taking in any additional information that might come in handy once we’re on our own in the backcountry.

If you see a bear: don’t run, act big, make noise. If a bear charges: drop, cover your head, pray. Check. The rest of the video covers other safety tips about river crossings and stresses the importance of the leave no trace principles.

Next, we stand outside and wait for the ranger’s station to open. We are, indeed, first in line – a small victory as we fend off yawns from a fairly sleepless night. The guy behind us in line is from Detroit. He’s going out alone – it’s his second trip to Denali but his first solo venture. Dan excitedly talks to him for awhile about various backpacking-ish things. I go buy more candy.

Once the station opens we get our permits, and we’re all pumped about the units we got. We plan for three nights – one in 39, one in 33 and one in 34.

Dan getting our maps ready

The next camper bus doesn’t leave until two, so once we buy our tickets and arrange our bear canisters we have a few hours to kill. Margo found some Alaskan beer and a new friend to chat with, Dan decides to go for a walk, and Kristin and I opt to nap in the car.

When we wake up, KP and I wander over to the restaurant and indulge in a final meal before the bus arrives. Vegetarian chili seems like the perfect remedy for the cool air. This, I will soon discover, is a very poor decision when about to embark on a three-day venture far from civilization and anything resembling a bathroom. But I digress…

As we walk to meet the bus, our first minor tragedy strikes – the Hamilton’s trekking poles are nowhere to be found. Momentarily distraught, they rally as we load the old green school bus – four trekking poles lighter but absolutely stoked about what lies ahead.

Our ticket into the Denali wilderness

About to get on




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