Autumn in Denali

Posted By: Jan

September 04, 2012

Today mist rolls through the Moose Creek valley in waves. It’s almost possible to imagine we are situated on the Bering Sea coast instead of some 500 miles inland. Fog hangs low over Wonder Lake and clings to the surrounding ridgetops. Water droplets hang on everything in sight—on the ovate leaves of blueberry bushes, on the countless spider webs suddenly made visible among the tundra shrubs—making everything sparkle. Miniature showers of water droplets soak our hiking boats as we tromp through the tundra.

Autumn in Denali is a fleeting season, lasting about 2 weeks. At this time, the brilliant colors of the tundra are just beginning to fade. Golden willows, fiery orange dwarf birch, burgundy red blueberry, and lipstick red bearberry leaves contrast with stark white lichens and deep green spruce trees. Thanks to a rather wet and cool summer, the colors were spectacular. Unlike most temperate regions, our autumn colors are underfoot rather than overhead, making for a veritable Persian carpet across the landscape.

Other harbingers of the changing season are sandhill cranes that course overhead in their eastward migration. The first few, small flocks were spotted in mid-August. Those flocks grew, numbering in the 100s. By now, the first week of September, the dawn of a clear day promises 100s, even thousands, of cranes chortling their way eastward along the Alaska Range wing their way southward. 

As we strain our eyes against the new snow on the flanks of Denali, Mt, Brooks, Mt. Foraker and the other peaks of the range, trying to pick out the cranes as they fly over the McKinely River, a little tug on my heart stops me short for a moment. Mid reach for a blueberry, I pause to reflect upon the beautiful summer we’ve had and the seasons rolling past us.

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Denali Dispatch

It is our pleasure to present Dispatches, a journal of the goings on at Camp Denali & North Face Lodge. Written by members of our staff, Dispatches is an opportunity to peek into the special sightings notebook, brush up on Denali National Park issues, read about our ongoing projects in sustainability, and maybe get a whiff of what’s cooking in the kitchens. Dispatches will carry on through the winter, when we hope to share stories of snowy ski adventures, deep cold, and the events of a small Alaskan community.