Discover more from Lee’s Newsletter
New Hikes and Wildflowers
Some highlights from recent adventures in Denali National and State Parks
Hello everyone! I am back with more hiking adventures and wildflower finds, offering a peek into Alaska's vast wilderness and unique biodiversity. In this update, I share experiences from my two recent hikes and the latest additions to my wildflower guide. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy the journey with me!
Ermine Hill Trail to K'esugi Ridge
Ermine Hill Trail to K'esugi Ridge was my first solo hike this season. This trail, nestled within the Denali State Park, is about 3.8 miles one-way (7.6 miles out-and-back). The hike is popular for day hiking or backpacking, and despite its moderate difficulty level, it's worth every step for its stunning views. It's also an access point for mid-way along the K'esugi Ridge Trail.
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The terrain is varied, ranging from the lush greenery of the lowland boreal forest to the rugged beauty of the rocky alpine tundra. A series of switchbacks contribute to a moderate climb and descent, making this trail a well-balanced challenge for both seasoned hikers and enthusiastic beginners.
At the trail's end, I reached the rocky slopes of K'esugi Ridge, which presented an unforgettable view of the expansive Byer's Creek valley below. Winding through dense alder thickets and marshy terrain, I was amidst a stunning, elongated alpine pond. Pacific Loons made The sight even more remarkable, not a species I frequently see in the interior.
Not to forget the jaw-dropping sight of the Alaska Range from the rocky hillside above the pond on a clear day! The view of Mt. Mather, Mt. Eldridge, and Sunset Peak standing majestically under the vast sky was a moment to remember.
I also got a few photos of some (cute) Alaska road hazards on the way home.
Savage River to Mt. Margaret - Denali National Park
Last weekend, I enjoyed a group hike, accompanied by my wife, Cat, a couple of families from my youth climbing team, and some friends from my Community Crush adult climbing class. Our chosen route was the off-trail trek from the Savage River in Denali National Park up to the summit of Mt. Margaret and Primrose Ridge and back down to the Park Road.
This hike was challenging due to its steep and rocky terrain, but we were well-rewarded by the views at the top. As we ascended, we passed by a veritable bounty of diverse wildflower species dotting the landscape with vibrant splashes of color. I am still updating my wildflower guide with the many new species we encountered during this hike (a couple of these are shared below).
Although the route is near a popular area in Denali, it is primarily a trailless wilderness. Preserving this wilderness is essential by following the Leave No Trace Principles. Therefore, I won't be posting a detailed hiking guide with maps for this particular hike, as following exact routes can lead to erosion and land damage. Instead, you can find some general information about the route in my previous blog post from when I first did this hike in 2021.
As adventurers, part of the wilderness experience of the park lies in exploration and navigation. Therefore, if you're intrigued by this hike, I encourage you to sit down with a map and plan your own path.
Common alplily (Gagea serotina)
The common alplily, Gagea serotina (formerly Lloydia serotina), and its subspecies, var. serotina is a white-flowering plant with purple veins and grass-like leaves. It is primarily an alpine species living in rocky meadows or slopes.
The subspecies (Gagea serotina var. serotina) we encountered on Mt. Margaret has slightly smaller basal leaves than the parent species, and greenish to purple veins on the tepals. You can read more about the flower, its taxonomy, uses, and habitat in my guide here: Common alplily.
Arctic yellow violet (Viola biflora)
I almost missed the few arctic yellow violet (Viola biflora) flowers we passed because they are so tiny! These bright yellow flowers had deep-purple veins in the lowermost petal and relatively large cordate leaves. In North America, these are only found in Alaska, The Yukon Territory, British Columbia, and some isolated areas in Colorado. However, they are fairly prolific across Europe and Asia.
You can also find detailed information about this flower in my guide here: Arctic yellow violet.
These were only a few of the many flowers I documented on this hike; hopefully, more will be posted in the coming days before my next outings this weekend. Stay tuned for more!