Yesterday we decided to visit Denali National Park. I looked it up online and I’m so glad that I did. I learned that it’s not like the other National Parks we’ve visited. There is no food to purchase in the park and they encourage you to bring coolers of food on the bus. I also found out you can only drive about 15 miles into the park unless you were staying in one of the campgrounds so we headed for the Wilderness Access Center where we could purchase our tickets for one of the many tours. We decided to take the shuttle to the Eielson Visitor Center which is about 66 miles into the park. It was listed as an 8 hour round trip but I couldn’t figure why it would take 4 hours to go 66 miles on a big green bus. Well, after about 15 miles the road becomes gravel for the entire rest of the trip and some parts are even one way. There was one other tour that was longer (12 hours) that went all the way to the end of the road (23 miles more) to the Kantishna Campground. All the campgrounds in the park have no hookups whatsoever so there was no way we were going to stay there. That tour was full until the next day. After spending 8 hours on this bus I can tell you, I’m glad we didn’t go on the 12 hour one.
It rained most of the time but it wasn’t as cold as we’ve been experiencing. We knew we weren’t going to see the mountain because of all the low clouds. Not many people are lucky enough to see it because I’ve been told it’s only visible about 10% of the time. Another interesting thing I learned about the mountain is that summer is not the time to attempt to climb it. Most of the climbs actually take place in January because it’s too cold to snow then.
Mount McKinley (or Denali meaning "The High One" by the Athabaskans) was named after our 25th President. It is the tallest peak in North America at 20, 320 feet. For years the native Alaskans have been trying to get it changed back to Denali but the politicians from Ohio are blocking it because McKinley was from Ohio. We’ve just been calling it Denali.
Our Driver “Wayne”
We saw LOTS of animals in the park. Wayne gave us instructions at the beginning of our tour about keeping hands, arms, elbows and heads inside the bus. Well, we saw a wolf coming down the middle of the road and when he moved to the side to let us by some idiot on the bus stuck his head out the window so Wayne had to move on. I didn’t get to get a picture of the wolf. :-(
We did see LOTS of grizzly bears though and even witnessed one nursing her cub
This golden eagle actually posed for us and then took off!
The Eielson Visitor Center
The roof of the Visitor Center
This is etched on the glass in the Visitor Center so you can “see” the mountain when it’s in the clouds
I stole this picture so you can see what it looked like one day in July
This is what the road looked like for most of the day.
There are no guardrails here either
This train trestle is still used today
One day in Denali was enough for us so today we moved further north to Fairbanks. Actually we are just south of Fairbanks at North Pole. No, it’s not the North Pole, just a city called North Pole. It’s all about Santa Claus here though. Santa this and Santa that. Even the park we’re staying in is called Santaland. LOL