Saturday, July 24, 2010

McKinley Station Trail in Denali Park

Just within the entrance to Denali Park there are hiking trails available. Taking one of those trails was a better option for us rather than paying the fee for another bus ride into the interior of the park. Wildlife can be found anywhere in the park. We can always count on seeing a moose and right now the bears are roaming everywhere in search of the summer berries which are now ripe. One type of  berry they are after at present is the soapberry, pictured below. Our hike yesterday was led by a park ranger and she pointed out this plant, as well as many others, to us. We were quite fortunate to run into her tour group at the beginning of our hike.
Sandy, our guide, pointed out the crowberry and cranberry bush plants when we  passed by them on our hike. While we were walking along with her a park maintenance man came up to us and said that he had just come within about six feet of a bear. The location was along the trail we were taking. Needless to say, the ranger had us detour away from that area. Sandy was very knowledgeable about many of the plants which we saw on the trail. Her college majors were in biology and anthropology. She shared with us some very interesting history about the people who once lived in the park during the 1920s. One particular area is called "The Hole". This was a town once popular for wine, prostitutes and gambling. Tin can middens are still  lying around the places where once there had been homes and stores. Wildflowers were abundant along our trail. I was really impressed by the tall larkspur. That is actually its name, and you can see why in the picture below. The pink flower below it is fireweed, the most frequently seen blooming flower at present in the park.
Sandy was also knowledgeable about the wide variety of mushrooms which we saw on the trail. She broke open a couple and pointed out the various physical features of the fungus which either made it poisonous or non-poisonous. On this trail, and another one which we took later, I saw mushrooms of every shape and color. That really is a mushroom in the picture below. I touched it to make sure, at first glance it looked like a big rock!
After we had completed the ranger-led hike we went off on our own and hiked to Horseshoe Lake. At the far end of it is a large beaver dam which seems to be a couple hundred of feet long. As we were gazing at the lake a beaver swam over to the dam, walked over it and swam off on the other side. Below is a picture of the first sighting of Horseshoe Lake which I took from an overlook on our trail. There are a couple of islands in the lake.

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