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Denali

"The Mountain"

all seasons in one day 43 °F

01 Sept 2017 .....continued.

We started out from Talkeetna with just a sliver of sun showing. I was so optimistic - I grabbed my sunglasses. Well, that probably cursed us - it started to rain shortly after we got on the road and didn't stop until we reached Denali. There were times when I was sure that the rain was deciding between snow and sleet but just stayed rain....windy, cold and rainy...until we reached Denali.

Alaska Veterans Memorial

Alaska Veterans Memorial


Of course, we're told the best views are from a distance. With each passing mile, the mountain would tease us with just the slightest shadow and then would cover itself with a grey blanket of clouds.

Arriving at the National Park, we checked in and picked out a campsite. No water or electric, so we're a bit off the grid...which, thankfully, our RV is equipped for. Riley Campground is right as you enter the park and with Jim's Senior National Parks Pass it's quite a deal...$12 per night. We found a nice site that was relatively flat and after a couple parking attempts, settled in.

Denali.....check!!!

Denali.....check!!!

Riley Campground

Riley Campground

Denali, like many other national parks, to avoid traffic congestion and the environmental impact, uses buses for transportation into the park. There is a fee if you want to travel farther than the Savage Creek site - that shuttle is free but travels less frequently. All the shuttles are hop on - hop off (subject to a seat availability - no standing on these buses).

We opted for the shuttle to Eielson Vistor's Center - which is 65 miles into the the park and takes about eight hours round trip without hopping off. The shuttle does do a few short "rest" stops and will stop if there is wildlife sightings. Each ticket costs $35 per adult and reservations are required. We made our reservations for tomorrow this afternoon and will be on the 830am shuttle. Sunday (the day after tomorrow), I think we'll try the Savage RIver Trails....at least that is the plan right now...

After setting up the RV, it was time to see what the Visitor's Center had to offer. We always make use of the information offered by the rangers at the National Park offices. They provide wonderfully useful info. From our camp site, it was an easy 1.5 mile walk to get to the Visitors Center via the McKinley Station Trail. We chatted with the ranger and caught the ongoing video about the park.

We made our way back to our site and settled in to make dinner. We're still feeling our way around. The weather forcast indicates the possibility of rain and/or snow tonight. Not missing our tents today.

Relaxing in the RV, played some cards, pierogies for dinner and we're both about ready for bed...

02 September 2017

We actually slept quite well. The bed is queen sized and nice and firm.

Up, breakfast and we're on our way to the the Wilderness Access Center (WAC or AKA the bus station).

This information might be a bit redundant but I found it all a bit confusing before we got here and saw how the system works.

Our trip today will be out to the Eielson Visitors Center - 65 miles each way. If we took one of the "tours", there is a guide on board, multiple stops and a box lunch is included..for $80 and no option to hop on/hop off. The "tour" is a bit more extensive but drives the same road as the shuttles. With the shuttles ($35) you can decide how far out on the park road you want to go. Our shuttle ride will be an eight hours round trip. Also, shuttles are the green buses and tour buses tan. All buses start running at 0630 and run every half hour throughout the day.

We did luck out by getting Elton Parks as our driver/guide. He was funny and incredibly knowledgable. We learned about the animals, park history, local area information - probably one of the best driver/guides we've ever had. Elton shared that a good portion of the drivers have more than 25 years experience. And, also that most the guides at Denali are there because they love being there. We could just tell that his man loved his job!!

Our bus departed at 0830 (shuttle by reservation only and this was the first time we could get). One other thing that is very important to remember. Other than the convenience store at the camp entrance and a snack/coffee shop at the WAC, there is NO (and I mean NO) food sold in the park. You are able to replenish water at the Eielson Center. Even though this was impressed upon us many times, there was still a group of nine young people who boarded the bus with no food or water. They decided to get off the bus, get some food and I did see them at a stop later, so they were able to catch another bus. It was ok to eat on the bus and Elton told us he'd seen everything: pizza, mostly sandwiches, salads, some food choices that were more inventive than others and there was even a gentleman from Germany who brought a 6 pack of beer. He was not able to drink on the bus but at each stop he would step off and enjoy his tasty beverage.

It was a wonderful day. The skies cleared with just a few clouds. Again, we lucked out. "The Mountain" is usually clouded over at the peak and only about 20% of visitors get a chance to see it. We didn't get a clear view but did get that "almost" view. Clear but cold "The Mountain" rose up against the blue sky with a slight cloud halo circling the summit. Quite glorious!!

Our 1st view of Denali

Our 1st view of Denali

The Mountain follows you throughout the park

The Mountain follows you throughout the park

The Mountain

The Mountain

Old Glory

Old Glory

It was also a "bearly" good day. No caribou but we saw about ten bears including a sow and two pups and also two good sized bears bathing in one of the roadside ponds. We were not able to stop for a photo shoot on the swimming bears. They had gotten a little close to the some of the camp sites and the rangers were using some aversion training (bean bags).

Bear Sow and Cub

Bear Sow and Cub

Our trip was highlighted with the sighting of two rutting moose. As with many of the bear sightings, it was quite far off so my pictures were not good but the experience was great.

Rutting Moose

Rutting Moose


Regarding photos: about a year ago I invested in a new Nikon D3300 with hopes of learning more about photography and becoming a better "photographer". After some faltering and then help from John at Tucson Camera - I'm feeling a little more comfortable. I brought both cameras with me on this trip but only the "new" camera on today's trip. My "old" camera is a Lumix DMC FZ200. Tomorrow we'll be heading back into the park to the Savage Lake area. I'm going to take the "old" camera to compare.

Dinner was back at the RV. I'm really getting spoiled - I really don't think I can go back to tent camping after this treat...Jim....hint....hint!!!

03 September 2017

Another good night sleep until the CO2 alarm starting going off. This "RV'ing" is a definitely a learning curve for us. I called Katie from AM (yes, I know it's Sunday but after perusing the internet - when your CO2 alarm goes off - it's kind of a big thing.) Of course, she knew exactly what we'd been doing wrong. Quick fix (our batteries were low) and I could still get a hot shower before heading out for our hike.

The WAC was about a 15 minute walk from our campsite and we grabbed the 1030 shuttle. From our first "hello", I knew this driver was no "Elton".
Skies today are overcast and the air colder. The short ride (45 minutes) to Savage Lake passed quickly with no sightings. The walk is a two mile loop trail. It was good to get out and walk if only for the views - not spectacular but a subtle beauty. The return was into the cold, gusty wind but enjoyable nonetheless.

Savage River Trail

Savage River Trail

Messy little eater

Messy little eater

Lichen as art!!!

Lichen as art!!!

Jim bundled for the hike

Jim bundled for the hike

We walked to the ranger hut to wait for the return bus and chatted with the two rangers on duty. One was a young man who would be heading to Kansas for his next assignment and the second a local woman, who, after chatting with for a bit, we found out she graduated from SUNY Brockport. Yes, the world does get smaller and smaller.

We got back to our site just in time to drop off our backpack and head to the Visitor's Center to catch the bus to the Sled Dog Demonstration.
The sled dogs are housed at the historic park kennels and demos are given three times a day and are free to the public. The rangers assigned to this post show how they work and train with the dogs. These dogs are very important to the park as they are the only mode of transportation into the park once the snow arrives - no motorized "anything ". The public is able to interact with some of the dogs, then a brief demo, kennel history and Q/A from the crowd.

I'll give you about 2 days to stop doing that!!

I'll give you about 2 days to stop doing that!!

Her name is Party...for obvious reasons!!

Her name is Party...for obvious reasons!!

Upon our return we stayed and toured the small museum exhibits at the Visitor's Center before taking the trail back to our site.

We'll be off tomorrow for Fairbanks with wonderful memories of the views of this spectacular part of our country.

Posted by pjburke 09:47 Archived in USA Tagged alaska denali bears Comments (4)

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