From Fairbanks, we took the train to Denali National Park. The rules for the park are very interesting, in that there is only one 92-mile road into the park, and private vehicles can only go so far in. The rest can be traversed only by park buses (hop on, hop off, hike your brains out in 6 million acres of wilderness) or tour buses. All of which is very interesting park management, and has kept the wildlife wild and the area pristine. I wonder if other parks ought to be so managed.
We took an 8-hour tour that went 62 miles up. Saw 13 grizzly bears, lots of moose, ptarmigan, Dall sheep, and three wolves, one of which trotted across the road right in front of the bus. At the end of the 92-mile road is a luxury resort on Wonder Lake. I’d love to go back and stay there for a week or so.
Mt. McKinley was only kind of visible at one point, but the rest of the views were incredible. The landscape is glacier-sculpted, so there are mountains, valleys, and “braided rivers in unfit river valleys” the likes I’m sure to never see elsewhere. Breathtaking, and I don’t use that term loosely.
We stayed two nights at Denali, and went for a nice hike across the river from our hotel, and then hopped the train for Talkeetna, traditionally a staging area for those who want to hike Mt. McKinley. And there, we found the real Alaskan color. Al made friends with a reindeer, we met a couple of true characters, ate breakfast–complete with reindeer sausage–at The Roadhouse, and saw the mountain out in all its glory from our room at the Alaska Talkeetna Lodge.
We took a little river trip and saw how the old trappers used to live, and we could have done without that particular tour. We stayed two nights in Talkeetna, and played lots of gin rummy. One night would have been perfect. At least the mountain came out for us.
And then… on to the Kenai Peninsula. Stay tuned.