Another day in the Park

Trip Start Jul 12, 2010
Trip End Sep 24, 2010

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Where I stayed
Riley Creek Campground

Flag of United States  , Alaska
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

  A choice of  two Discovery Hikes are offered daily and require pre-registration at the Visitor Center. Maximum number taken is 11. These hikes are Ranger-led and require a bus ticket up into the Park. Much of the hiking that is encouraged in this Park is not on designated trails but to just get out and go exploring. The Discovery Hikes give people the opportunity to do that with one of the Park Rangers who again gives history and interpretation along the way. The one we chose was in the vicinity of the Toklat River and was considered of moderate difficulty. It was at mile marker 52.5 which meant a 2 hour bus ride in and back. We tried to find one that wasn't quite so far in but the next best option said that it had sections of being on a high ridge with steep sides on both sides. No thanks, I don't do well with heights. 
   We decided that the bus ride would give us the opportunity to see more wildlife so it would be worth it. We got up ealier than usual, packed our lunches and left the Wilderness Access Center at 8. A group of teenagers with the Student Conservation Association was on our bus. They had been in the park for a few weeks doing work on one of the trails and now were finishing up with a 4 day backcountry camping trip. They were really excited and it seemed their chaperone would make sure they had a great experience.
   The hike started out by walking for quite a distance up a rocky riverbed...not too exciting.
getting to know the other hikes helped to pass the time. Our group included Michael & Petra from the Czech Republic who have been working in Alberta, Canada the past 11 months and now are traveling for a month before going home. There was also a couple from Sarasota, FL with a 9 year old girl and 5 year old boy. Two other guys from VA and IA plus the ranger made up our group. We did see a few caribou upriver thaqt we were able to watch for awhile.
   Then we turned from the riverbed to a wash area that looked to me like it was the "gully" where the water runs down when the snow melts. We walked up it for quite awhile, seeing some bear and wolf scat but no animals. It was getting close to lunch time and we decided we'd get to the higher part of a nearby bluff which turned out to be steeper than I thought so quite a climb! The view from there was gorgeous and we all sat up there and had our lunch. It was very windy but we sat on the side out of the wind and it was very pleasant.
   As a group we decided to take a different route down which would involve some bushwhacking - going through brush and trees and finding your own way through. The tundra carpet is like a cushion or mattress. The growth on the ground is very thick and soft. It's not grass but a combination of evergreen like growth. It's really easy to walk on. We were making good time and then we came into an abundance of blueberries! The plants are very small, not even a foot tall in most places but there were a lot of them. We all started picking and munching and ended up spending close to an hour there.
   Getting through the low brush and the 10 foot willow trees was a bit of a challenge but we all survived. The hike back down the riverbed took us to the bus that brought us back to the Wilderness Access Center by about 5:30. We did see some sheep really close to the road, several bears and caribou, and the bull moose that we've been hoping for. The moose was quite far from the road and his rack wasn't very big but he was a bull!
   A cute story - the 9 year old girl told her mother while we were picking berries that she had to go to the bathroom. With a little prodding she revealed that she had to go poop to which her mother told her she should wait until they got back to the campground. Yikes, sometimes when you gotta go, you gotta go! She wasn't talking to me but I overheard the conversation so said I did have some kleenex along if that's what she needed. She was tentative but must have decided she couldn't wait so came and got the kleenex from Wayne. She had her dad go with her into the bushes because we had been warned that we needed to make a lot of noise before we went in because of the possibility of bears in the area. Well, on the bus ride back to the campground they were sitting behind us and I overheard her telling her dad that in her Junior Ranger program booklet it asked of a new experience she had today and she said she wrote that she went poop in the woods! Too cute!
   It's been a full day in the Park again.
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Faye Baker on

AK blueberries are the best!! At least you could stand up and pick. At Hatcher Pass Victoria and I had to sit on the ground and pick them. I am so enjoying your journal..... :-)

bethany on

the toklat was the first trip into the backcountry that dean and i took when we were in the park in 2007. love when it happens that i know places like that...

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