My first choice had been to backpack farther west, near the Eielson Visitor Center, but the permits were all used up for that. This route was my fallback, and was probably better for seeing wildlife. The plan was to hike up the gravel bar some miles and make camp. I would stay there for two nights and do a dayhike farther up in between. But that's not how it worked out.

I got off the bus at the Toklat stop. There is a tent-type structure there where they sell books, as well as a cache box to leave stuff to come back to, so you don't have to carry it all. This first shot is looking up at a mountain in the area.

Here is the gravel bar looking south. The braided river only covers a small portion of the gravel bar.

Gravel bars are easy walking, but you occasionally have to cross braids of the river. Here they were not more than ankle deep, though very cold.

One of my greatest desires was to see wolves, something considered rare even in Denali. But there is a Toklat pack, and here on my second day in the park, I saw them.

They were lounging in the brush in the river bar, but apparently considered having me walking well to their east as cutting them off from the larger brushier areas to the side of the gravel bar, and took off for that safety as I passed them. They barked and howled at me from maybe 150 yards. I didn't know that wolves barked.

At this point the river went against the hill, but I was able to traverse there, so I didn't have to cross again.

Eventually I started looking for a camping place, and so left the bar to find a flat space in the tundra.

A bird, a hawk of some kind I think, flew quite close by.


I ended up camping in the gravel bar of a small tributary creek.


It was just mid-afternoon, so I decided to hike uphill away from the river to see what the pass behind Divide Mountain was like, since that had been recommended as an alternative way to get back, rather than retracing my steps. From up on the pass, which took about 45 minutes to get to. there were some modest snowy peaks.

And I could see down to the other - west - branch of the Tolkat River. It looked easy to get back down there. More to the point, there were lakes at the pass and it was quite scenic, so I decided to change plans. The next day I would move my camp to the pass, and hike up Divide Mountain later in the day, But this is the view looking down towards the Toklat River West Branch.

Continue to Toklat backpack, part 2