Sunday, July 28, 2013

Kesugi Ridge

Well, I've had quite a break from blogging, but what better to start back up again than with a post about a beautiful hike? I went on a four day backpacking trip with my friend Heidi and her boyfriend, Dan, across Kesugi Ridge, a ridge just south of Denali National Park.

This was supposed to be one of the best hikes in Alaska, and I would say, as long as the weather is good, that is certainly the case. We lucked out and had 3 days of sun. The trail was fantastic.

Our campsite the first night.
The trail starts up with a steep climb from the highway, but then you're ridgewalking for quite a while. Once the clouds cleared, we could see Denali (Mt. McKinley), which at 20,320 ft is the tallest peak in North America. We were able to see it most of the trip.

The view when we awoke. That's Mt McKinley (Denali).
Our second day was quite windy, which was a mixed blessing. This kept us cool, and kept the bugs away, but once we started camping, the wind was really annoying. Unfortunately we had trouble finding a spot that was sheltered, and flat, and near water. We ended up going with the second two, so no one got much sleep that night with the tent flapping around.

Heidi checks the map.

Dan overlooking the Susitna River valley.
The third day, we got a bit of a late start, which was too bad because it was the toughest.

View the next morning from our second campsite.
We started out by going over Ermine Hill, which had some really cool rock formations.

A few of the interesting rocks at Ermine Hill.

More interesting rocks.
After that, the trail dropped down about 1500 feet to the valley floor before climbing back up the same amount on the other side. Part of the trail had been visited by a trail crew, but the "up" portion was unfortunately untouched. Climbing through moose alders that smack you in the face just isn't that awesome. To add insult to injury, the wind had ceased and we were hot. Boiling, in fact.

The "gateway" to the long descent.
Finally we got to the top of Mt Golog at 2900 ft, which we renamed Mt. Gulag, because the hike up was that pleasant. But the vistas were amazing. Unfortunately, we had many miles to go before we camped that night.

Dan on top of Mt Gulag/Golog.
Our camp on the third night was pleasant, although definitely buggier. The winds aloft were causing some amazing cloud formations over the Alaska Range, and I was happy to get some pictures of them.

Denali from our third campsite.
I couldn't believe how pretty the lake was that we camped next to.

View in the other direction on the third night.
Unfortunately, after this my camera batteries died, so no more pictures. But the view on the third day was just as spectacular. We had about another mile or two of ridgewalking, before the descent to the trailhead. All told, we did about 30 miles in four days. No record breakers, but for three out of shape folks with heavy packs on our backs, not too shabby!

I have wanted to hike Kesugi Ridge for years and the trail did not disappoint. It was beautiful, and the Alaska I saw in my dreams when I was far away in Australia. But we were lucky, I can't say that it would have been such a great trip if we had been fogged in the whole time!


Unknown said...

Just fantastic!

Carlw4514 said...

pretty cool!

Uncle C

L said...

Glad you like the pics!