Denali 2011 – Day 2 – Arrive Denali, Get Permit

Monday morning 8/22/2011 7:30am – Trapper Creek, AK

We woke up pretty early – I don’t know why since we got to bed pretty late.  After showering and packing the car – we drove over to the actual lodge (the main building) and got bre’fast.

What it should’ve looked like

We drove to Denali, stopping to take a few pics along the way:

We got to Denali about noon, and headed over to the backcountry office to plan our trip.  We had to watch a video about bear and wilderness safety along with a few other groups that got there after we did.  We decided, based on input from the rangers, to do 2 3-day trips instead of 1 6-day one.  We went back and forth a few times between the backcountry office and the place we had to reserve our campground for this first night and get our bus pass.  It was very confusing – they both kept telling us contradictory things.  It worked out in the end.

We decided to do Riley Creek (unit 2) for 2 nights, Savage River (unit 4) for 1 night – this would be the first 3-day trip.  We would exit at Savage River campground and then take the bus over to Toklat River (unit 9) and stay there 3 nights.

The actual permit

Our permit – the rules…

We left the park entrance and went to a small grocery store outside the park to get fuel, food, and bear spray.  We didn’t get everything we needed – but while we were there, Dave got into a conversation with this lady that works there and she confirmed that on average the Denali area only gets like 12″ of precipitation per year.  I think I got more than that in like one snow storm last winter!  Taking her advice, we ate lunch at this Pizza Place that was really good.  We also went to Healy – about 20 min north to find the stuff we wanted (fuel for the stoves that Brian and I had that was not available in the first store).  They didn’t have the right fuel either, so we went back to the park and to the Riley Creek Mercantile and they finally had what we needed.

the small ‘town’ outside the park (part of it at least – the stores are behind the picture-taker)

The train that we could’ve taken from ANC to Denali, but cost and time pressure changed our mind. This one is headed from the park to Fairbanks

We drove to the Savage River campground so we could cache our food for the 2nd 3-day trip.  It wasn’t so much the weight as the space for the food.  We used a bear container that we got from the backcountry office and left it in the food locker at the campground.  While divvying up the food – one of the campground hosts came over to chat with us and see what we were up to.  We told her what our plans were and as soon as we mentioned unit 2 – she was like “ooh – that’s a lot of bushwhacking”.  We would find that to be an understatement in the next few days!

We left there and drove a little bit east and did a small day hike, getting a view of where we would be exiting 3 days later.  Here’s some pics:

That’s the area we’d be coming out from (those mountains in the distance on the left) in 3 days

Here’s a little video showing what the ground was like:

After this day hike, we went back to the park entrance and headed for the overnight parking. We set up our packs, leaving any luggage/etc. in the car. We then hiked about 1.5 mi to Riley Creek Campground where we set up our tents, had dinner, and went to bed (around 10:15pm for David and Brian, about 10:45pm for me since I had gotten there a little after the guys and took a little longer to prep my dinner – Pad Thai – not kidding – it was one of the freeze-dried meals).

Brian’s Day 2 post is here