The next morning was great – the early morning light illuminted patchy clouds and provided some dramatic lighting on the mountains. I got out of camp early and headed back towards Polychrome Basin, one of the most scenic areas of the park. On day 1, the mountains above the basin were hidden by clouds, and on day 2 the clouds lifted enough to see a ton of fresh snow, most of which will probably remain until next spring. Winter starts early in Denali. So for Day 3, I headed directly across the wide basin and into one of the valleys, figuring it would be nice to hike through the valleys with snow-capped mountains all around. It was! After 3 hours or so I reached the edge of Polychrome Glacier, the turn-around point for this out-and-back hike.
As I mentioned only 1 in 5 park visitors sees Mt McKinley and given the cloudy weather I’d had, I thought I’d have to settle for seeing it as a blip on the horizon from Anchorage. But coming over one of the low passes, it came into view. One more thing I can check off the list!
Due to the schedule of the shuttle buses, I decided to break camp after I was done hiking for the day and spend the last night camping in the frontcountry. It would guarantee that I’d make my connection back to Anchorage. Generally these frontcountry camping spots are reserved months in advance but, this being a slow year for tourism, I had no trouble finding a spot that was spaced out from the other campers. I was looking forward to getting a good nights sleep without having to deal with screaming kids, generators, late-night partiers etc… Well, I was counting my chickens a little too soon. At about 9:30, just before dusk a couple guys plunked down right next to me and cracked open the beers after getting their bonfire going. Needless to say, it was a little tough to get to sleep but there’s not much you can do. However, I love holding a grudge so at 5am, when I woke up to piss, I figured it would also be a good time to repack my pot and pan, which involved clanking them together like cymbals for about 10 minutes. Then I went back to sleep.