Solo Chick Alaska Adventure

I'm making one of my dreams come true by doing a solo chick adventure to Alaska. I’ll chronicle my trip here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Exploring Denali State Park

My visit to Denali National Park continued my delight with my Alaska experience. I stayed at the Bluffs hotel in Denali, which is located with a bunch of others just outside the park. It’s part of Denali Park Resorts – typical of a park type of room, though it had a small wooden balcony that I could sit on for a view of trees all around me. I’d sit there and write while breathing in the fresh mountain air, reminding myself how blessed I am to have the opportunity to experience all of this.

Sunday I had to get up at 4 MA as my Tundra Tour of Denali began just after 5 AM!! Tough to make but worth the trip! Since daytime arrives early in Alaska (like 3 hours after it leaves!), it was light when I left. Felt tired at first but woke up fast when someone called “moose on the left!” It was a baby moose but we had a great view of it grazing right there on the side of the road. From then on I stayed alert.

John, our driver, was the best I could imagine. He loves Denali and his passion was strong as he gave us many details about its history and the park itself. One thing that makes the park special is that it’s trail-less. Most parks have well defined trails that hikers and backpackers can follow. Not Denali. They try to keep it as true to its natural state as possible. This includes limiting how many can stay overnight to just a few. Those who run the park don’t want animals to change their habits by following man-made paths. But as John said, for serious hikers, there’s nothing like being in one point, wanting to reach another and having to figure out how to get there on your own.

They do whatever they can to protect the animals from humans. This includes scrupulous methods of keeping any food from reaching them. Backpackers carry special containers for food that bears can’t rip open or smell the food through. Because they don’t get food from people, they leave most alone. Most vehicles can’t go in further than 14 miles. They have many bus tours and shuttle buses for those who want to walk around or hike. But hiking can involve crossing rivers so cold they can kill you and finding your way without trails. So I wouldn’t recommend it for novices. I'm told that there are 4 lodges 96 miles into the park that can be accessed by air taxi or hotel buses.

The views we saw were spectacular. I’d been warned that Mt. McKinley isn’t often visible due to cloud cover. It’s so big that it creates its own weather system. But oh my goodness! My staunch faith continued to reward me as we saw the mountain’s head clearly in the distance, not long after entering the park. It was just a snowy peak, 80 miles away, but John said it’s unusual and warned when we got to the better view point, it might be gone. But it wasn’t! We had such a clear view of the whole mountain that people who work here were coming out to see it. Another blessing manifested by faith in great weather! It felt like the mountain was very close but it was actually 40 miles away.

We saw bears, caribou, and sheep at a distance in their natural setting. And trees and mountains. It was 8 hours, which got a little tough for my back to deal with but John rarely stopped telling us interesting stories as we drove. Since we went back the same way we rode up, I took some catnaps toward the end. I just loved being in the middle of the mountains and seeing all the green.

Monday I just relaxed and walked around until it was time to catch the train to Fairbanks. This time I went Goldstar, which is the first class of trains. We sat in a nice high car with a see-through dome at the top. There was a free beverage bar. The train was far from full so it was a nice spacious ride. I got into Fairbanks after 8PM so I didn’t have time for more than checking into my Extended Stay hotel at the airport and going to sleep. I needed to get up early to have breakfast and meet the bush plane taking me to the Denali Wilderness Lodge on Tuesday.

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