Week 149 - Denali National Park, Alaska - 06-21-2009
Good Day from the Land of the Midnight Sun,
After three weeks at Camp Li-Wa, we said good bye to our friends, flew
the coop, and headed to Denali National Park and Preserve.
1) Pete & Ellen, Stephanie & Gary, Naomi & Jay, Rosie &
John. 2) The Air Force treated us to a dozen touch and go's when we
were parked in Fairbanks.
The drive from Fairbanks to Denali is beautiful like all other Alaskan
roads. God's creation is simply amazing.
The entrance to Denali park is just one mile south of the cute little
town of Denali. We stayed at Rainbow Village RV Park which is right
behind the Harley Davidson and other shops.
On February 26, 1917 Denali park began as the 1.2 million acre Mount
McKinley National Park. It is home to Mount McKinley which, at 20,320
feet, is North America's highest peak. Alaska has 17 of the 20 highest
mountains in the US. Denali, meaning "The High One" is the Athabaskan
name and is preferred by the locals over Mount McKinley. In 1980 the
park's name was changed to Denali National Park and Preserve and was
increased to over 6 million acres (9,492.24 square miles). It is one
of the largest contiguous preserves in the world.
There is a single 91 mile road into the park. You can drive 15 miles
to Savage River Rest Stop. Beyond that you need to ride a bus or get a
permit to camp at Teklanika River Campground which is at mile 29. We
drove to Savage River rest stop with our friends and hiked. We also
took a bus to the Eielson Visitor Center.
Our bus driver, Wendy, has been giving the tour for 30 years. She will
tell you that what you see will be different every day. You will
always see beautiful mountains. But your chances of seeing Denali
mountain are slim. According to Wendy, she says that you will see
Denali 20 days out of the 90 day summer season. Park Ranger Ken told
us that June averages only four days where clouds do not obscure Denali.
You will also have a chance of seeing bear, sheep, moose, caribou,
ground squirrels, marmots and 32 other mammals, golden eagles and 115
other birds, and one amphibian, the Wood Frog. And in the summer the
wildflowers will be in bloom.
Moose, especially bull moose, do not typically hang out together. We
had the rare privilege of seeing three bull moose slowly following a
fine moose cow. Wendy was so excited and said that it made the whole
1) Well, praise the Lord! We got this totally clear photo of Denali
early on our trip. 2) The Teklanika River. Teklanika is Athabaskan for wide river bed, little water
. Most of the rivers in the park
are glacier-fed with water that looks like quick flowing concrete. And
the majority of them are braided
rivers like the Teklanika.
The Ploy Chrome mountains offer a variety of colors with browns,
whites, grays, greens and more.
While most visitors are hoping to see Denali the closest the road gets
is 20 miles. The road, created in the early 1900's, has not been
straightened or moved, only widened. The road leads to Kantishna where
gold was discovered. While really not dangerous, the steep banks were
enough to get some of the passengers to move to the other side of the
More examples of the of the mountain colors in the Alaskan Outer Range,
which is the range that Denali is part of.
Three hours into our trip Denali was still visible. The rounded left
side peak is the tallest at 20,320 feet. The pointed peak on the right
is 19,490 feet. Denali rises 18,000 feet above it's plateau base. The
world's tallest mountain, Everest, reaching 29,028 feet, rises only
12,000 feet above the Tibetan Plateau. Denali has the highest vertical
rise in the world. Alaska has 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United
This was our view of Denali at about four hours into our eight-hour
tour. This view is from Stony Hill Overlook just three miles short
of Eielson Visitor Center. There are three bus tours into the park.
You can travel round trips of six hours to Toklat, eight hours to
Eielson or 12 hours to Wonder Lake. The buses are basically school
buses but with rather nice, soft individual bucket seats; not bad!
Denali never came out of the clouds the rest of the day. With only one
of six visitors seeing the mountain, we were blessed.
Now for some of the wildlife. The Alaskan ground squirrel. The little
fella on the right at first posed out in the open, but as we took his
picture he became bashful and hid under a rock.
1) The caribou relaxes on the snow. The caribou is similar to the
reindeer. But as any Alaskan will tell you, to be a reindeer, the
caribou needs to be surrounded by a fence. 2) These sheep were quite a
distance away but better than the other "white dots" we saw.
On Sunday our friends, John and Rosie, drove us to the Savage River
rest stop. There is a nice 1.8 mile hike along both river sides.
Many say the Alaskan state bird is the mosquito. It is actually the
Willow Ptarmigan. They are very friendly. This bird is very prominent
in the town of Chicken, so they wanted to name the town after it. However, since the community could not agree on the spelling of
Ptarmigan, they called it Chicken.
Three Alaskan Marmots entertained us. Two of them were either fighting
or dancing. From the rear they look like large house cats.
Pete was lucky to snap a photo of this little critter poking her head
over the rocks.
1) Thank you John and Rosie for your friendship. You are a blessing.
2) See you all next week in Anchorage. Love, Pete and Ellen
Photos from Jun 2009