On May 26, 2008, Paul Hedtky was back in Anchorage and looking for another ride up to Fairbanks. I didn’t have enough available time to take him all the way there, but did take him as far as the Talkeetna junction where he would then hitch the remainder of the way. My free time was reserved for the first-ever trek to the property. After dropping off Paul, I kept on for while longer until reaching the parking lot to Trapper Creek Glen. I had been half way to the property just days before, and now would be my moment to complete the journey.

Small black bear track

Small black bear track

It must have been sometime around noon. I packed up my water purifier, camera, printed maps and bear spray and headed off down the trail. When I came to Ridge Tail I turned north again and headed along the same route that took me only half way the first time. This time, paying close attention to landmarks that I could identify on the map, I darted off the trail between two lakes, taking a westerly approach toward Trapper Creek and the large muskeg beyond.

Crossing Trapper Creek

Crossing Trapper Creek

Along the way I came across black bear tracks, beaver and their lodge. I pushed through the woods fairly easily since in early spring the vegetation is just beginning to come up. Still, getting fatigued from all the stepping over roots, branches and logs, I was happy to finally see Trapper Creek below through the spruce and birch, as I stood at the height of the bank. Once at the edge of the water, bends in creek and a grassy meadow gave my position away on the map. I then crossed at a shallow, rocky width and continued west.

Difficult hiking, uphill and through dense wood, finally gave way to spruce trees that thinned and shortened as I went along. I altered my course slightly just a couple of times, fearing I might be headed off on an angle, and eventually I saw light. The large muskeg that would lead straight to the property was within sight. As I cleared from the spruce into the openness of the marsh I turned to the north, the direction of the property, and Denali clearly towered in front of me, stopping me dead in my tracks. I was absolutely excited that such an incredible view was so close to where I’d be building a cabin. Even if I wouldn’t have a view right from my lot, all I had to do was walk or ride to this spot and get my fill of the awesomeness of that mountain.

The location where I exited into the muskeg was quite a bit further south than I had anticipated, but I sloshed along northward through the spongy, wet turf, stopping momentarily at times to take a good look around. That muskeg is HUGE, nearly 2 miles long and .35 miles at the widest point. And at the northern end, there it was, a point of trees that extended into the meadow marsh that signified my lot. I could finally see it, and from afar was happy to discover some of the taller trees and highest ground in the vicinity. My guesswork from studying satellite images, and luck from being one of the only adjacent pair of properties left, one for me and the other for my family, had paid off.

View of Denali as I exited the forest near the property

Once on site, I scouted along thoroughly taking note of trees that must be 80 feet high and 1.5 wide. Open grassy area with birch and small spruceA grassy, open area with surrounding birch is right in the middle of the two lots with a group of overhanging birch limbs forming a sort of tunnel along the edge. I even explored a small lake and creek just a bit further north. All the elements were satisfactory. Standing at the northeast corner of the lot, looking southI took more photos to include a couple with me running into view, a big smile on my face, and then relaxed for a moment before having to head back home. Though I would have liked to camp for the evening, it was time for me to make the long hike back.

I retraced my steps along the muskeg, through the forest, past a grouse, across Trapper Creek again, up and over and down between the two lakes and back onto the main trail. By this time I was wiped out. As the tail drug on, my head began to hang, and I paid little attention to my surrounding with the bill of my hat blocking the view. Then, as I turned a bend and began to drop down into a ravine, a bolt of awareness came over me that I have never before felt. Something was watching, and I knew it. I turned my head abruptly over my left shoulder and leaned defensively toward my right, away from whatever was next to me, and focused my alert vision on the large, dark mass. It was to my great relief, a moose. Although that can be trouble at times, I’d much prefer to come across a browsing moose than a hungry bear. Just on the other side of some trees, I had walked right past it. I’ve often used the tactic of acting as if I didn’t see and animal in order to get close. This time the tactic worked wonders, although I wasn’t aware of what I had done. Bull moose making a break into the brushThe young, bull moose clearly wasn’t frightened, just stood there and watched me walk past. It wasn’t until I lifted my camera to take a photo that it lumbered off.

The encounter lifted my spirits and I completed my trek back to the car in good time, paying closer attention to my surroundings as I went along. I had learned a valuable lesson the easy way. I was also walking away with knowledge of the property to help me with further plans. One thing was obviously going to be a challenge, getting out there on a regular basis. I didn’t take a trail the whole way, nor was I sure if there was a trail the whole way. There was a trail that went straight through the two lots, but where did it come from, and where did it lead? I had no idea. Further recon was a necessity.