National Geographic : 1992 Aug
Tokosha Mountains, the skies changed and the world came back. It sparkled and dazzled. It had distinct edges. More miraculous still, living things grew from it: the black bear that watched us drop down into the foothills, for instance. In short order we had stripped to T-shirts and were carving turns between thickets of alder and birch where butterflies butterflies!-probed trickles of rising sap. Pairs of trumpeter swans were arriving to claim the earliest open water in the Tokositna Valley for nesting territories. It would be weeks before actual green-up, butI felt spring time more keenly than I had in years. I was also beginning to feel how enormous and varied Denali is. The ranger station for the southern portion lies outside the park in Talkeetna. Although few hike into this rugged side of Denali, Talkeetna's flying services handle an increasing number of sightseers. The majority of McKinley climbers fly to base camps from here as well; the sleepy, winterbound village thaws to become a hive of slightly wild-eyed, summit-struck folk spout ing foreign languages. After climbing McKinley in 1942, cartogra pher Bradford Washburn led a 1947 expedi tion in which his wife, Barbara, became the first woman atop the summit. Not long after, Fattening up on blueberries in September, a grizzly enjoys peace and quiet-for the moment. For four hectic days during that month, a total of 1,200 cars chosen by lottery are allowed on the park road. A close encounter with one of Denali's 200 grizzlies is perilous for foolhardy visitors (above).