We started from the Toklat River Contact Station and as soon as we jumped off the road we saw tons of signs of wildlife including wolves, lynx, and bears. We didn't know exactly where we going to camp, but we planned to hike as far as we could in a day. The middle day the planned to explore further up the headwaters around the glacier, and then hike out on day 3.
We could see the end of the valley but no matter how long we hiked it didn't seem to get any closer. So we just kept hiking...
A few hours later we found a nice spot to pitch our tents. We all laid down for a bit to rest, then made dinner and explored around camp. We found a cool little drainage and decided to follow it up.
Eventually we popped out above the valley floor and had a great view to the north where we had started. Some of us found quicker ways down than others.
We all went to bed around 10, but an hour later we hear people from the other tents telling us to pop our head out to check out the light. So I got back up and went out for photos. As I was exploring around I found a call sheep skull laying in the rocks. Around midnight the color really started to pop and everyone crawled out of their tents to take photos.
The following morning our group split up, half headed back to the road while we would stay another night and head further south into the mountains. Eventually we hooked up with the terminus of the unnamed glacier. We followed a lateral moraine up until we were on a medial moraine, now standing on the glacier.
We decided that was probably far enough for the day and sat down for lunch. Before heading back to camp I set up the tripod to take a group photo and captured my funniest selfie on accident. Right as the timer went off, a huge gust of wind blew my camera over and snapped this shot of me trying to save it. The best part is Corrie and Emily with their "oh shit" faces. The camera landed on its side and only my UV filter broke. If I didn't have the filter on, it's likely that I would have just broken my lens. I'm glad I was given the advice to keep a filter on for exactly this reason.
The hike back to camp was GORGEOUS. Beautiful jagged mountains with fresh snow are one of my top favorite things.
Back at camp there was a band of Dall sheep on the mountain just above where we found the skull the night before. The next day the weather rolled in and started raining on us so we hiked as fast as possible back to the road without stopping at all. Unfortunately, my achilles swelled up and I'm now on the DL until my foot feels better. Hopefully not too long!
Trip notes: we hiked just shy of 31 miles in 3 days which is pretty far considering it's all off trail. I think this is now my most favorite trip in the park. The area was awesome, but I think the biggest thing is that I was able to get so far away from the road. Hiking along river bars for hours can get sorta boring, but hard to complain when you have the mountain views to keep you company.
Disclaimer: Denali is a trail-less Wilderness. These maps are approximations of our routes. Please don't take this blog and map to the Denali Backcountry Information Center and say, "I wan't to do this exact trip." They will take good care of you like they did for us. Thanks!