Spoiler Alert: We went to Denali National Park twice, but didn’t see the mountain either time. Apparently only 30% of the visitors who come to Alaska ever get to see it. I was thinking about inserting a picture of Mt. Rainier here, because after all, a volcano is a volcano. But even I can see they’re not similar, you’ll have to go on your own trip—then let me know if you fall into the 30th or 70th percentile.
On the way from the campground to the park, we drove along the Nenana River. We stopped and watched the show for awhile. Watching is way cheaper (and warmer and dryer) than actually getting in one of these rafts.
One of the big things on everyone’s bucket list is to see the wildlife in the park. This is the first wild animal we saw that day! I’m sure you’re as excited about him as I am.
There are two Denali National Park signs. The one above is the second sign, inside the park. This one is just before you get to the entrance. I like the other one better. I have no idea why they need two.
We went to the Wilderness Access Center to buy bus tickets for Monday, thinking that would be the best day for weather. We opted for the 8-9 hour trip on a tour bus because "tour bus" sounds more comfortable than "park school bus". (More details about this on the next post.)
Next up was the Visitor Center. This is a topography map of the park. The line at the bottom, going past Healy, then turning up and going Cantwell is the highway from Fairbanks to Anchorage. If you squint a little, maybe you can make this 3-D map flattened into a 2-D photo, you can probably figure out which part of the white section is Denali. The orange line is the ONLY road into the park, and you can only drive 15 miles into the park—anything beyond is on a tour bus on a gravel road.
When I was standing in line waiting to talk to a ranger, I overheard him give someone info about the Sled Dog Demonstration. After watching the movie, we headed for the bus stop--they're really big on buses here. Demo was at 2:00, and they kept bringing in more buses until everyone was on the way.
Sled dogs are kenneled differently than the family pet. They have their own house and are chained to the area. They have enough slack to get inside, up on the roof and to play with a friend. A lot of them seemed to like napping up on the sundeck, but not all.
A few are in bigger runs.
They smushed us up into the bleachers, then the ranger who was narrating started talking to us about the dogs--not quite as cute as she thought she was, not as bad as some. These dogs are not just tourist attractions. They’re actual canine rangers that patrol the park during the winter. This run around the trees once several times a day is child’s play to these working dogs.
When the demo was over, and we’d extricated ourselves from the crowd, we wandered until the buses were ready to take us back. In the sled building, George got stamps for his NP Passport book. I went back to watching the dogs. Steward seems to be watching something else.
Back in the truck we headed for one of the stores in the park. I had it in my head that I would actually be able to buy a sweatshirt that says DENALI NATIONAL PARK on it in Denali National Park. I could find t-shirts. I could find hats. I could find a whole lot of junk but no sweatshirts... (Couldn't find bear spray either, but that was okay for now.)
I’m excited about the bus tour in a few days. Come back and check it out.
In the meantime, here are more pictures from our first day in the park: Denali Natl Park