Denali

We left the North Cascades on Tuesday morning, heading for the Washington “border town” where we were storing our home for the next few weeks.  After getting the camper settled, we set out for Vancouver, the first leg of our Alaska Adventure.  It was a long day by the time we checked into our hotel and the weather was less than cooperative, so we opted to grab a pizza and chill in the hotel room instead of walking the town.  We know, we are lame 🙂

It was an easy day of air travel from Vancouver to Anchorage and we were in our rental car by 2:15.  We still had to decide if we were spending our first night in Anchorage or further up the road. After a quick loop around the city, we decided to start making our way to Denali, a 4½ hour drive north.  Not knowing where we were spending our first night in Alaska, we hadn’t made room reservations so once again, we were flying by the seat of our pants. On the drive north, Kim put in a call to Kathy at the Meandering Moose B and B and Cabins in Talkeetna, hoping she still had a cabin.  Luck was with us and she had one left.  Talkeetna started as a mining town, became a riverboat landing for gold miners, and then played an active part in the construction of the Alaska railroad.  Today it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is known for being the “flight” town for Mt. McKinley climbers.  Climbers set out from Talkeetna by plane, landing about 7,000 to 8,000 feet up to start their assent up the 20,000 mountain, tallest in North America.

Famous Talkeetna sign....not sure why

Famous Talkeetna sign....not sure why

Summer in Alaska brings more daylight than us “Outsiders” are used too.  We got a kick out of doing “tourist” research on our porch at 11 PM in full sunlight… Our first night in Alaska (Talkeetna) was a good one.  Kathy was more than friendly, the accommodations were very comfortable, and the town offered some nice choices for a walk and dinner.

From Talkeetna it was off to Denali National Park.  We were less than impressed by the drive, expecting it to be much more picturesque.  Smoke from active wildfires, combined with some cloudy weather, obscured most of the impressive landscape. Numerous viewpoints along the road had signs about Mt McKinley in the distance, but we never did see it. When we arrived at Denali, we were a bit concerned with the “smoke” situation and its probable negative effects on seeing what we came to see.  We booked a shuttle trip into the park for the next day nonetheless, as the weather report was promising. 

Grizzly in Denali

Grizzly in Denali

The shuttle system, although a bit pricey, is a great way (and the only way) to get into the park to see the “mountain” (Mt. McKinley, know by locals as Denali) and many of its friends. Personal cars are only allowed 15 miles into the park, while the shuttles go up to 93.  The drivers were great and actually provide more of a tour than a shuttle.  Anytime wildlife is spotted en route, passengers shout “STOP” and the bus will screech to a stop and everybody whips out the cameras. We stopped to capture images of a variety of wildlife along the way.  We actually saw the “big 5” of Denali; Grizzlies, Moose, Wolves, Caribou, and Dall Sheep- plus a few bonus animals like a little Red Fox and many Artic Squirrels (one even posed for us in front of the mountain).

Our first view of Mt McKinley

Our first view of Mt McKinley

The elusive Mt. McKinley didn’t disappoint.  According to the park information, only 30% of the visitors to the park actually get to see it.  Due to the location and height it is usually clouded in, having its own weather system. Well, we got lucky once again… Today the skies were blue and the mountain was visible for much of our day.  Our shuttle turnaround spot was the Eielson visitor center. We took the opportunity to hike one of the few hiking trails in the park, with 1000 ft elevation gain (felt like straight up). It was rewarding as it gave an even more incredible view of the mountain. We returned to the park entrance after a 10 hour day, 8 of it inside a bus. Once again we were beat and finished our evening with dinner in our cabin. 

Are we really going up there?

Are we really going up there?

Our last day in Denali brought a bit of haze.  We were very happy that we chose to do the shuttle tour the day before, as “the mountain” would be hard to see today.  We opted for one of the strenuous yet established hikes in the park.  The Mt. Healy overlook was a 2.3 mile quick assent.  We had fun complaining on the way up. 

We Made It

We Made It

Although it was a bit hazy, we still enjoyed the views from the summit. It was hard to capture the grandure in a photo.  Tomorrow it is off to Seward and Kenai Fiords National Park.

4 Responses to “Denali”

  1. The Mommie Unit says:

    Hi,

    Looks like a pet moose they bring out for the tourist what’s with the collar it doesn’t look like the usual tracking collar? And the squirrel is definately in the actors guild what a great shot! How much did you have to pay the squirrel? Glad to see you took photos of the grizzlys from the bus.

    Are you still saying in the Talkeetna cabin or is it too far away from the park?

    Stay Well & Safe and Happy and in the bus!!!!!

    Love Mom

    • admin says:

      Hi Mom,

      We thought that moose was pretty goofy too. According to the rangers, they are all wild, but tracked for research purposes. How cool was the squirrel picture. We were heading over there for a timer shot when he posed for Chris. We had another close encouter with a black bear. He walked right across a paved trail by Exit Glacier when we were in Seward. I would say he was about 5 feet from Chris… I wimped out and backed away while he captured the shot. Talkeetna was too far from the park. We stayed in different cabin in Healy about 10 miles north of the park entrance. Hope you are getting some house action and that the sun is finding it’s way back east.

      Love ya!

  2. Deb says:

    Greetings from the ‘south’!!
    Looks like you’ve had great weather and gorgeous views – your travel luck has taken a turn, Kim 🙂

    I hate to bring up business – while you’re having such a blast – but I wondered if you could share a password with me for EduTech. I need to print a copy of the trned report for our 6th graders ELA results and I can’t get in there without one.

    Thanks for your help – and continued Happy Trails!!! Deb

    • admin says:

      Hi Deb,

      Greetings:) No problem with business.. . I called and left a message at school earlier. Not sure what password you need???? Do you mean cognos? If so Phil or Matt should be able to help you get into that system for the report. Also if it is nySTART Phil should also be able to print any reports… Let me know how I can be more helpful. Crusing in Alaska this week so service is sketchy at best. Hope all is well for you and that you and Dan had a grand time on your trip, which I know was much needed and mush deserved.
      Wishing you well.
      Kim

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