Monday, November 1, 2010

Denali National Park

Every year, after the tourist season is over and the national park buses stop running, there is a lottery for the Denali Park Road. This year, the dates for the lottery were the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th of September. There are only 400 passes given out for each day. With a lottery pass, you are able to drive your car into Denali Park and explore at your own pace without having to be on a bus. You can stop for wildlife viewing and hiking whenever you want! We actually ended up winning multiple passes, so we sold the extra ones on Craigslist. We went into the park on the 18th. We headed up that way on Friday night and we camped just outside the park gate at Riley Creek Campground. We slept in our tent although it was very cold, about 28 degrees! We had packed extra warm clothes to wear though, so we were nice and toasty in our fleece and our sleeping bags! You are able to get into the park bright and early on Saturday morning at 6am. We headed out of our campsite a little bit later than that though, around 7:30. As we headed into the park, it was a little bit cloudy and foggy.

There was lots of frost covering the branches and the tundra. This was disappointing because the whole week before, it had been clear, blue skies and very sunny. The weather report was calling for great weather though so we had high hopes for the day. It was a wonderful day because as the sun came up, the fog lifted and the blue skies shined through! As the sun came up, the temperature also warmed up nicely.

We got our very first glimpse of wildlife too! We spotted a lynx although it was very far away!

Just as the fog lifted, we rounded a sharp turn and caught sight of Denali waaaay off in the distance.

One of the great things about being on the road with other private vehicles is that when someone spots some wildlife, everyone pulls over to watch. So, when you see a whole bunch of cars just stopped, you know that there is something there that you want to see! This time, it was a family of 3 brown bears. They were frolicking and playing in the tall, dense bushes. Here is one of our bear friends that we photographed from a safe distance.

Here are some more photos of the lovely mountain, Mt. McKinley or Denali as many people call it.

We drove all the way to the Eielson visitor's center, made a sandwich and then kept on going to the end of the park road in Kantishna. There is not much out there except for a small cabin that was where some homesteaders lived many years ago and some small hotels, which were already closed down for the season.

We spent some time at Wonder Lake as well. The last time that we were here (in June), there were tons of bugs and mosquitoes.

Steven wanted to stay in the park for a while, so that he could get just the right picture when the sun was in a perfect spot in the sky. We played cards while enjoying the sunshine and I also picked some blueberries and cranberries (I still have some in the freezer)!

Here are some more pictures of Mt. McKinley from Wonder Lake.

Once we got our pictures, we started to head back as it was about 5-6pm and we were still all the way inside the park. We started to see many snowshoe hares. Their coloring had not yet changed to all white for the winter.

There was also a traffic jam due to a helicopter needing to land in the middle of the road to airlift someone out of the park and to Fairbanks or Anchorage because of a medical emergency. We aren't really sure what was wrong, but I hope everything turned out alright for them! I once read an article about many Alaskans buying Lifeflight insurance to help cover the costs of being airlifted out and taken to a hospital.

On the way out, we also saw four Dall sheep hanging out in the brush resting taking an evening nap.

Look how close they were to the road and to our car. That one walked right by my car door. If I had reached out, I could have touched his horn.

We stayed out pretty late because we were hoping to see the northern lights, which we still had not seen since living in Alaska. All we saw though was this almost full moon. It was very bright in the sky!

The next day, we wanted to drive down the Denali Highway (#116)just a little ways. This highway leading from Paxson to Cantwell was originally used as the access road to the national park before the Parks highway was built from Wasilla to Fairbanks. It is only open to travel during the summer months as it is not maintained during the winter. We saw some pretty views of the Alaska Range as well as a porcupine (part of #86). He was a little scared and quickly ran off into the bushes.


1 comment:

  1. Wow - what a GREAT trip and amazing pictures especially of Denali/Mt. McKinley.