Our major tourist adventure in Alaska was an overnight visit to Denali National Park— an amazing 6 million acres of largely untouched wilderness. To preserve that “largely untouched” quality, there is only one road through most of the park, and visitors must ride tour buses. We took one of the shorter trips, but still I was worried about 6+ hours in a school bus for a nauseated pregnant lady who needed to pee every hour. Turns out it was totally worth it!
Our drive from Talkeetna up to Denali was scenic in and of itself. (Here’s Mr T trying to capture some of the great, majestic glory via point-and-shoot. I gave that up as hopeless early on, and decided it was more fun just to capture Mr T.)
The weather was a bit iffy, and any far-away views of Mount McKinley were obscured by clouds. But the drizzly weather did offer up one glorious rainbow:
We spent the night in an inexpensive motel near the park, then hopped the Denali tour bus early the next morning. Most people visit Denali National Park with the goal of seeing Mount McKinley (now more often known as “Denali”), the highest mountain in North America. The mountain rises over 18,000 feet from base to summit, giving it a greater vertical rise than even Everest. Unfortunately, Denali is a “shy mountain” that frequently hides behind clouds. Only 30-40% of park visitors actually get a glimpse of the famous mountain.
But we were in luck the day of our visit — matchless Denali views both coming and going. In some ways, this is a sad view of Denali — through a bus window many, many miles away — and yet we felt so blessed to see it!
The other special sighting opportunity in Denali National Park is the park’s wildlife. Because human visits are so carefully controlled, bears, moose, caribou, and other native Alaskan animals roam in their natural state with little interference from humans. Unfortunately, our bus didn’t have as much luck with wild animals as we did with wild mountains. We saw bears, Dall sheep, and moose, but they were all quite far away. Far enough that you couldn’t see much without binoculars — when reminiscing, Mr T and I fondly remember our sightings of “bear dots”, “sheep dots”, etc.
I did spot one odd, orange-coated moose. Wildlife experts have expressed an interest in learning more about this mysterious creature:
Next up is our final installment: more views of Talkeetna!