We left early Monday morning to travel from Anchorage to Denali National Park, a 240 mile trip. The motor coach picked us up at the Ship Creek Comfort Inn, where we were staying, at 6 AM. We weaved our way through the Anchorage streets to three other hotels to pick up fellow travelers. Altogether there were only about 12 of us. The small size was nice, and a pleasant surprise. I thought we might have a full bus. The motor coach was huge, spacious and very comfortable. By 7 AM we were on our way.
Alaska is amazingly huge. One of our guides said it is twice the size of Texas! Denali National Park alone is bigger than some East Coast states. So it's no wonder that the trip would take several hours.
After the first hour or so we pulled into Wasilla for a bathroom break. It's also the home of the offices of our travel group, Alaska Denali Travel. They do a great job organizing a variety of trips and adventures that let you pick and choose what you would like to do.
We wanted to stay our entire time in Denali, which we were able to do. Other people we met were taking cruises and fishing trips as part of their vacation. We met one couple who had been traveling for over a month, and they still had a few weeks left on their trip. That's way too long a trip for my tastes, but I could understand why they did it. They had flown in from Australia, and that's a l-o-n-g, l-o-n-g way to come. No wonder they wanted to stay a while.
After a few minutes it was back on the George Parks Highway. Alaska has three main highways. We had started out on Highway #1, and somewhere along the way the name changed to George Parks Highway. We continued along it for another hour or two until we reached the Denali View South scenic viewpoint. When we stopped here, I took the top picture of Denali.
Officially Denali is still listed on U.S. maps as Mt. McKinley, but most people call it by its Alaskan native name of Denali. I was surprised to learn that only about 20% of the visitors get to see the mountain because it's normally shrouded in clouds and fog. We were very lucky. Alaska had been enjoying a stretch of clear, hot weather when we arrived that continued for nearly our whole trip.
Denali is amazing! The mountain is 20,320 feet high. With its size and large areas of snow and ice, it can create its own weather! At the point where I took this picture, we were miles and miles away from it.
As we continue to travel up the highway, I watched for wildlife. We passed through a variety of woods, lakes, and open land. My eyes were constantly on the lookout for bears or moose. I saw a lot of float planes, but no animals. I suspect that the heat and the noise of road construction may have caused them to be holed up somewhere.
After another delay or two for construction--summer in Alaska means road construction and mosquitoes--we finally arrived at our destination, the Denali Cabins and Prey Restaurant.
The cedar cabins that dotted the campgrounds would be our home for Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. Our cabin had a TV, but we never turned it on. There were walking paths around the cabins and a nearby airport that we wanted to explore. We spent Monday afternoon and evening exploring and resting up.
Early the next morning, on Tuesday, we would be traveling to the Backcountry Lodge. We were to ride a smaller bus to the end of the only road that goes into the heart of Denali National Park. We were leaving early again, a thing which has to happen in order to arrive anywhere in Alaska at a reasonable time. We spent our night packing our essentials into one small suitcase for this trip. Everything else would be stored at the Cabins. We could only guess what clothes might be needed, but we knew two things that were crucial--Dreet and mosquito netting.