17 Days of Green – Moss & Lichen

In Denali National Park & Preserve, it’s easy to fixate on the big stuff.

At a staggering 20,320″, Mt. McKinley is high on the list of things Park visitors hope to see.

The south-side view of Mt. McKinley from Byer's Lake, Denali State Park, Alaska.

Due to the Mountain’s height, however, it’s obscured by clouds nearly 70% of the summer.

So glimpsing the Park’s “charismatic megafauna” – moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves & grizzly bears – is next on the wish-list of most Denali Park visitors.

Grizzly bear near Toklat Ranger Station. (Photo by Kent Miller)

However, Denali is a National Park, not a zoo. The wildlife is wild, revealing itself in brief, unpredictable and often far-away glimpses.

Caribou near the Park road between Toklat and Polychrome Pass. (Photo by Kent Miller)

As a Park Ranger, I preferred to focus on the small, everyday stuff all around us. In a subarctic environment, that meant a lot of moss and lichen.

A deep bed of sphagnum moss along the Byer's Lake trail in Denali State Park, 2003.

I’m a firm believer that it’s important to slow down and notice the little things in life.
Little things can change your perspective, and surprise you with unexpected beauty.

Sphagnum moss is fascinating up close.

When you rush through your days, you risk missing the beauty right at your feet.

On every guided Ranger hike, I encouraged Park visitors to slow down and investigate the abundant moss & lichen they might otherwise overlook.

'Old Man's Beard' is a kind of lichen usually found growing on trees.

(So, this would be 'Old Man's Mustache' lichen, then?)

Volunteering with the Park Kennels 3 winters, I had the honor of naming a litter of pups.

Sled dogs are named thematically after Park features such as mountains, rivers & wildflowers. (Photo by Kent Miller)

My choice for a litter theme? (Wait for it…) Lichens!

Dusty, of the Denali Park lichen litter. (NPS photo)

Pixie takes a break during a sled dog demonstration at Park HQ. (NPS photo by Jess O'Connor)

Shadow, enjoying her view from the Wonder Lake Ranger Station. (NPS Photo by Bridget Borg)

For me, learning to enjoy the little things makes all the difference.

6 thoughts on “17 Days of Green – Moss & Lichen

  1. WoW! The pics are so awsome!! I was born in Fairbanks and remember bits an pieces so these really pull at me, I’ve made it as far as Petersburg but so want to travel further.


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