Sunday, September 20, 2009

Denali National Park

The first big adventure of our trip was Denali National Park. We were so excited about this part of our trip that we gave it almost 5 full days and did not disappoint in the least. It seems like most people who travel to Alaska just take a cruise, but I can't tell you enough how amazing the rest of the state is. Denali is only a few hours from Anchorage and truly a must-see to get a real sense of the Alaskan wilderness.
Denali National Park is named for Mt McKinley, which is called 'Denali', meaning 'the great one' in the native language. The park covers over 6 million acres, but there is only ONE road to the interior. Did you hear that, just one 90-mile road. In 6 million acres. Can you imagine that? Literally, as far as the eye can see, there is no one, save the chance backpacker. The road is like this tiny slit cut into the vast land to give us a peak, but just a peak, at the secrets it holds. (OK, this is getting a little too deep for even me. But I loved it, ok? Moving on...)

The system they have for park visitors is really ingenious. Generally speaking, you can't drive your own car into the park. Instead, they have a system of shuttle buses. Picture below - pretty sweet, eh? Well, they'll do. But it's so nice not having the roads clogged up with everyone's cars. The buses will stop for any wildlife you spot, so there's plenty of picture taking opportunities. You can also get off anywhere you want, and then just hop on any other bus that comes by later. Really, any random spot along the road you'd like to get off is fair game. There are almost no hiking trails in the park, they encourage people to spread out and hike whereever you'd like with the goal of not creating trails. Amazing.

We camped the first night at the park entrance, and then the next 3 nights at Wonder Lake, which is around mile 85 of the 90 mile road. During those days we'd catch the bus early in the morning and ride towards the entrance. Then at some random awesome looking spot we'd get off, get ourselves lost, and hopefully find our way back to the road before the last bus heading into the park drove past. It was a little annoying making sure we were at the road at the right time, since the later buses were a little sparser (since the majority of the people are headed the opposite direction by that time of day), but other than that it was a really great system.

The picture below is Wonder Lake. On a clear day, you'd be able to see Denali (Mt. McKinley) in the distance, reflected in the lake. I do have some "clear day" pictures of the mountain, but I'll save that for another post. Don't want to spoil the surprise!

The next picture is the view from our campsite. I think we were making dinner when we spotted this rainbow off in the distance. It was a little weird how it stayed light for some many hours of the day. There were only something like 4 hours of darkness every night, and I know I slept through them every night we were camping! I was so exhausted after the days' activities.

Just so gorgeous.... You don't get this kind of view from a cruise ship.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Looks like my kind of place! We're planning an Alaska trip next summer sometime, and I can't wait. Denali will definitely be on the itinerary. The trick will be finding time for everything, since we're planning on driving and will only have two and a half weeks max for the entire round trip.

Looking forward to the rest of the pictures!

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