After temperatures climbed into the 40s again and my creative energy continued to decline, I decided it was time to escape Anchorage. Originally I hoped to travel to Whitehorse for an overnight bike trip with friends, but discovered too late that my car rental policy didn't allow me to leave the country. There's also the matter that Whitehorse is 700 miles from Anchorage, and although I enjoy the drive, it's risky in the winter and difficult to justify amid the limited time I have in Alaska. Fairbanks is half that distance, and there's an incredible mountain range in the middle with extensive adventure opportunities.
I did go looking for winter. I found it.
The sun came out for the remainder of the drive to Denali National Park, which is only thirty miles north of Cantwell but only had two or three inches of new snow. There was another winter storm warning in the forecast for that evening. I had been sufficiently intimidated by snowy road conditions to want to escape the mountains before the storm came in, but had enough time for a half-day hike in the park. A park ranger recommended this loop starting at mile 12 of the park road, looping up around a ridge and then dropping into the Savage River Canyon before returning on a closed, unmaintained section of the road. In hindsight, it's crazy that the park ranger recommended this hike to me. I mean, I know this is Alaska, but this is a national park, and I didn't represent myself as a mountaineer. For all she knew, I could have been a random tourist from California who was just passing through on her way to Fairbanks. Oh right, that's exactly what I was. It was a scenic hike, but parts of the route were sketch-city. I'm guessing this is a popular summer trail, and the ranger had never been up here in the winter conditions.