Our adventure in Denali National Park was the crowning finish to our journey through Alaska. We only spent one more day in Fairbanks and then started our way back to the Canadian Border. Now we were heading towards the areas of the gold rushes around the Forty-Mile River and the Klondike River near Dawson City. In Dawson we spent two days, participating in different cultural activities.
A city tour, a visit at the gold fields and both evenings we ended up in the casino of Dawson, including an authentic dance show like in the old days.
In Dawson, we also got to know many friendly fellow travelers, Erin from Australia and Claudia from Chile among them. The two of them spontaneously decided to drive up the Dempster Highway, which meant that we could travel a bit together. Our goal was to get to the Tombstone Territorial Park, which lays north of Dawson. There we hoped to be able to start another trip into the backcountry of the great North. To plan that we first visited the visitor center where we shortly afterward obtained a wilderness permit and a rented bear barrel. However, we only wanted to start our trip on the next day and use the remainder of this one to travel through the northern part of the park so we could at least see some more of it from the Dempster Highway.
So now the two of our vans traveled up the gravel highway from viewpoint to viewpoint, dragging a long cloud of dust behind them. Once out of the park we then found a sweet campsite right next to a river, the only downside there were those tons of mosquitoes. Well, I guess that’s part of experiencing the North, too.
The next morning our paths divided again. We were heading back down south into the park, Erin and Claudia continued their long drive up to the Arctic Circle and ultimately to the Arctic Ocean. Our task, for now, was to pack our packs again and head out into the wild. The next three days we would explore the mountains forming the continental divide between the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Still, to get there we started out fighting our way through thick brushes.
Luckily we stepped onto a moose trail that we could follow all the way to the foot of the mountains. Along this trail, we could find quite a few signs of recent animal activity, including the poop of caribou moose and even a moose jaw bone.
Once getting on the slopes of the mountains we first climbed them up a bit only to realize that traveling at the valley bottom would be easier, even though there were brushes.
Those were sparse though and didn’t look like a hassle to get through them. During our descent back to the valley bottom a rainstorm struck the area and we were forced to rest under our tarp for almost an hour long.
As the rain ceased we continued our way up the valley until we climbed up to a pass towards the south. Scrambling up the hillside we witnessed the first sign of living wild animals, a lonely caribou. Except for this sighting, everything stayed quiet.
Approaching the pass we hoped, on the one hand, to find a campsite with a great view which also, on the other hand, provided access to some fresh water nearby. But instead of finding too little water we found too much of it and the whole plain was soaked like a swamp. After some extensive searching, we still found a suitable site, dry and pretty even. There we set up our base camp for the next two days.
Right after that we cooked lunch and prepared our beds. As the sun was still out and I wasn’t tired yet I decided to climb onto one of the surrounding summits.
Standing up there the next summit looked even more tempting and I ended up scrambling over a ridge up on top of that one, too.
The views from there were truly spectacular. I even could catch a glimpse of the sharp pinnacles of the mountains in the center of the park which also led to its name.
The Tombstone Mountains. Once the sun slowly disappeared behind some clouds I quickly made my way back to the tent and crawled into my sleeping bag. Good night…
But only until early in the morning a storm approached. At least I thought that it would be in the morning, actually it was only two o’clock at night. Mira just crawled outside to fasten the tent straps a little tighter, then we continued to sleep a bit uneasy. Once I took up in the real morning then I was quite surprised when Mira told me that it is only half past seven. It could’ve also been half past eleven to me. Crazy, how my rhythm up here got mixed up. I should definitely get my watch fixed. As I was awake now and Mira wanted to rest a little longer I climbed a little hillside and dazed a bit in the morning sun. A bit later we then prepared breakfast and started our exploration day afterward. Our goal was to climb a small ridge branching off the larger Cathedral Mountain. They seemed to be pretty close and small, however, we had to put in quite some effort to scramble through the rough terrain. Still, we summited the ridge and got rewarded with breathtaking views towards Mount Monolith, Tombstone Mountain and Divide Lake at their feet.
Also, looking back we could see our tiny little tent in the far distance.
The weather behind it seemed pretty bad again. Also, our sweet viewpoint got slowly shaded by some darker clouds and we quickly started our way back to the camp. Halfway back we still got hit by the intense rain and were forced under our tarp again. We used the time to have a quick lunch and hoped that the rain would stop quickly again. When it did not stop we then decided to change into our full rain gear and moved on through the now lighter rain. Arriving at our tent two warm, cozy sleeping bags awaited us. Once we got warm it didn’t take the sun much longer to fight its way through the clouds again and we could enjoy a pretty warm tent. We could even start to dry our gear outside again.
This is how we relaxed pretty much the rest of the day, then we still cooked dinner and went to bed afterward, having a good rest this night.
The third day we tried not to waste too much time in the morning and quickly put down our tent. A persistent rain front was predicted to arrive at the park today and we made our best to get back to the car before getting soaked again. Our plan worked out somehow, even though it rained slightly almost the whole way through. And to round up our experience in the park and add some extra spice to it we ran into three grizzlies on our route. This forced us to adjust our route even though the three of them weren’t that interested in us at all. But it’s definitely interesting to share your environment with those animals.
Once back at our vehicle we immediately drove over to the visitor center, reported about our animal sightings and brought back the bear barrel. In addition to that, we enjoyed the great exhibition in there and some delicious tea made from herbs out of the park. And then we finally said goodbye to the great park and traveled towards the south through still pouring rain.