Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 19

December 27th, 2012 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

 Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, his wife Ardis and son David in their Avion Camper on a 1968 GMC Utility Body Pickup. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 18.”)

Part Nineteen: Riley Creek Campground, Denali National Park, Alaska (Formerly McKinley National Park) to Toklat Road Camp, Denali National Park, Alaska

Polychrome Pass, Alaska Range, Alaska, copyright 1971 Philip Hyde.

Polychrome Pass, Alaska Range, Alaska, copyright 1971 Philip Hyde.

Sunday, July 18, 1971:  At 4:00 a.m. Philip woke up and slipped outside for 2 ¼ Hasselblad photographs of the sunrise and sky full of pink, puffy clouds. He came back in to bed until 6:00 am when I got up for a shower. The sun was streaming in through the now more stretched out wind blown clouds. It promised to be a clear day. We got away from the campground by 7:30 a.m. Our first stop was on the pass between Denali Park Station and Savage River. It was glorious to watch Mount Denali come out from behind the brown slopes of Double Mountain in absolute clear and total white form. Rolling shrubbery covered the foreground interspersed with some spruce. As Philip took pictures toward the west of Mount Denali, clouds came across the mountain’s face. He had going both his 4X5 Baby Deardorff View Camera and the medium format Hasselblad with the 250 mm lens on it. More views and photographs to the east for the lovely clouds. As we left this spot, South Peak was cloud swathed. At the next stop, just past the Savage River Bridge, Philip pointed the view camera east again where zeppelin clouds sailed over the peaks.

About Mile 18, we stopped for 35 mm photographs of cloud wrapped Mount Denali. He also made large format photographs of bar type zeppelin clouds to the east at the next stop near the Sanctuary River. We drove past the Teklanika River Campground to a small pond on the left with bent grass. The air was very cool with a stiff breeze blowing. We had lunch on the far side of Teklanika Bridge. After lunch we passed through the narrowing Igloo Canyon bounded by grassy slopes. The road narrowed and roughened as it climbed to Sable Pass. Before getting that far, we stopped behind a procession of cars looking at and photographing a young bull caribou. After we passed the caribou crowd, we drove on to the top of the pass and stopped for pictures of Tundra and flowers called Mertensia. Philip made a 35 mm photograph of a ground squirrel too. Just beyond David said, “There’s old Mount McKinley.” Sure enough, (now called) Mount Denali rises here above the colorful volcanic hills. Our next break from the road at 2:00 p.m. came at a road cut flower garden down from Sable Pass a little further. The road cut flower garden contained Arnica, Bush Cingul Foil, Spotted Saxifrage, Anenome, all captured with Philip’s 35 mm camera. Just before the East Fork Bridge we turned onto a service road for photographs of a braided stream flowing out of the colorful volcanic ridge gully. Once we crossed East Fork Bridge and climbed up the dug way that looks out over the alluvial fans of the Polychrome Hills, we stopped against the cliff. Philip walked on around the bend for view camera photographs. He also spotted the young caribou again, without the observing crowd and photographed him with the 35 mm.

At the top of Polychrome Pass we parked again while Philip took photographs of the view with the Hasselblad. The clouds had become almost solid and it looked like rain. We approached the Toklat River and halted by the bridge. With the binoculars I detected an animal on the distant side of the riverbed and a row of people at the road edge with cameras and binoculars. We moved on across the bridge where we could see it was a grizzly bear flaked out for a nap in the gravel. Shortly we saw there were also three caribou lying down, but with heads up watching the bear in the gravel beyond the grizzly. All three caribou were males, ranging from a young one with immature antlers to a bull with a very large full rack. For the next half hour we watched Philip photographing the bear with both small and medium format cameras. David was right along side his father with his “play” defunct camera. David looked over at me and said, “Mom, isn’t this fun?” The grizzly finally stood up, pawed around in the stream, then ambled into the brush in our direction. Philip made a few closer pictures, then into the camper to head on up onto the Toklat Campground slope. The campground turned out to be very small and congested. We had dinner and watched David’s “Eskimo Demonstration” igloo complete with a broom. David wore his nappy jacket and called himself a bear, then he became an Eskimo hunting in his skin boat and so on. Philip packaged up roll film while two Golden Eagles soared over the ridge top above the campground. During the night about 2:00 a.m. while it was still twilight, we heard a horn blowing and dogs barking. It turns out that the grizzly had come to visit the campground. A man from Quebec in a small car near us asked Philip as he stuck his head out the camper door, “Did you see the bear?” Philip shook his head “no” in surprise. “He was shaking my car,” the Canadian said. Just then, the Park Ranger came to the rescue and drove off the bear with a gun firing blanks.

Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 20.”

 What kind of bear encounter(s) have you had?



  1. So, you’re part bear. We’re finding out all sorts of things about you David. Interesting story and one I would have liked to witnessed.

  2. Thanks, Monte. I would like to be part bear. Sleep all winter, are you kidding me? That’s a great life. If I could be a school teacher and a bear, then I could sleep all winter and be on vacation all summer. That would work. Speaking of work, I don’t mind it, but maybe if I had more rest I would feel better about it. Very little sleep last night, just for example. Up most of the night working on my photos and doing this blog post, then out photographing this morning. Of course all of that is just fun and not work, but then as soon as I get back from photographing, I won’t be able to rest either, but I will need to get on the phone and sell prints. That’s work. Mind you, I’m not complaining. Just wishing I was a big old grizzly bear. I guess I need to be careful what I wish for, I might reincarnate with fur all over.

  3. pj says:

    Love these posts David. They’re fascinating glimpses into your formative years with your parents, and into your father’s work.

    I’ve never had any grizzly encounters, but I used to run into black bears all the time growing up in northern Minnesota, and then again in the mountains of Montana. They’d always run away from me. I must have looked scary to them. Or maybe I smelled bad…

  4. Hi Pj, I appreciate you sharing your scaring of bears and the compliments on my mother’s writing and my editing. The bears around here usually take their time about running away. They stare you down for a while first and often even advance some just to see of what you’re made. When they turn and leave, they often don’t run. They just sort of amble away unconcerned. They are not very afraid of people.

  5. Your parents were quite the team, weren’t they??

    trying to imagine all the gear that your dad lugged around…. when I’m in the field I’ll carry at most two bodies and two lenses with an extra battery for each, an extra card for each and a tripod. If I’m on the motorcycle, half that.

    How in the world did he keep all that stuff organized!?? I have a hard enough time with the little kit I bring.

  6. Hi Derrick, Good questions. Yes, my parents worked together extremely well, dividing tasks and operating with high efficiency because they read each other’s minds. I’ve rarely seen anything like it. In later years they also kept up a brand of constant low level bickering, but as grating as it was on their son, I believe now that is part of what kept them together. They would argue over minutiae like the names of places or roads, how far they went up a road, what year it was, whether they were with one group or another. Many of their arguments Google would solve nowadays. They were also very thoughtful and caring of each other. Loyalty. They were as loyal and supportive of each other, in all ways and on all levels, as anyone I’ve ever seen. They literally had each other’s back, and had to, in the remote wild places they traveled. As far as organization, both of them were as meticulous as those old days were long. They were great planners. They thought everything through ahead of time more than once, thought and rethought all aspects of gear, timing, travel arrangements. My father was a Boy Scout and an Eagle Scout, you know? They were nearly always way over prepared and overstocked and my father always had a spare of everything. They took their photographic trips very seriously, in that there were none of what they would have called hairbrained, sudden, or spontaneous outings, except closer around home. A few times they had to rush, or received a project at the last minute, but they always had some way of getting everything together, or having it already prepared for just that sort of contingency. Much of this comes from many years of experience. By the time I was born in 1965, they had been married for 18 years and my father had been doing wilderness and photography travels for significantly longer.

    Derrick, my guess is that you and others in our generation are juggling more than my parents did in that you and some others have high level full-time jobs that take much of your time. Then you head out into the field to photograph too. Those of us nowadays, myself included, are generally spread too thin much of the time to be as organized as my parents were. We have to make transitions between the various hats we’re wearing quickly and spontaneously to have a chance to photograph well.

  7. I really enjoy these travelogues, David. Your mother relates a good narrative…and it helps to hear a bit about little David’s exploits too. 🙂
    In responding to Derrick your description of their preparedness is the description of two professionals. Although it was fun and a great life, it was work and they went about it as pros. It was a life many of us would envy. And the results speak for themselves.

  8. Steve, Thank you for reading and for your observations. My parents had to be professionals. They didn’t have anything else to fall back on.

  9. Mark says:

    I enjoy these also David. It must be great to have such detailed logs of these adventures. I appreciate the sensitivity your family had to being with the bears in their environment and the peaceful sharing of the moment with them.

    My moments with bears are few, from a brief one with a black bear in the Smoky Mtns to my trip to Katmai back in 2009 which was one of the best experiences I have ever had being among brown bears for days.

    I find it a little bit sad when I tell people about that trip back home. Most have the reaction of fear and amazement that I didn’t “get eaten” vs. sharing the appreciation of being in peaceful company with these great beings. Many people truly have lost their connection to nature.

  10. Hi Mark, I know your stories about your Katmai, Alaska bear adventures are good. Most people suffer from televisionitis and fear just about anything natural or wild worse than Medieval Europeans did. We are living in the dark ages of corporate media. The corporate state manipulates the mass psyche for profit. As Michael Moore pointed out in Bowling for Columbine, if you keep people in fear, it is easier to control them and sell them anything you like on a large scale. It does have many adverse side effects, however, which we are only beginning to observe and have yet to understand.

  11. Greg Russell says:

    Again, let me say that these posts are really wonderful, David. Thanks for sharing them. It’s inspiring to listen to how your parents traveled together, and the adventures they shared are pretty amazing.

  12. I appreciate it, Greg. I hope you keep a travel log of your trips too. They make good blog posts, but could be a book or part of a book someday too, like these blog posts will be.

Leave a Reply