Denali

I can’t begin to put into words how awesome Denali National Park and Preserve is.  I hadn’t known what to expect, and everything was better than imagined.  Denali NP&P is a 6 million acre wilderness only intruded by a single road that runs east west.  Common folk can’t even get past the ranger station without riding a bus, and only the most daring campers, carrying everything they’ll need on their backs, are allowed to camp in the park’s interior.

Some of the views across valley floor from mountain to mountain were greater than 5 miles, and at the apex of the tour stood a vista that overlooked the highest point in North America. Animals are not plentiful, but our bus was lucky. We saw 3 moose, a white wolf, and 8 healthy grizzly bears. Upon entering the bus our guide suggested we not get our hopes up on either seeing Denali itself or any bears at all. She drives the road 6 or 7 days a week for the entire season, and we were only the 11th time this year she saw the mountain. She has never seen 8 bears in one day, not to mention the Dall Sheep, Ptarmigan, and other critters.

I can’t put into words the awesomeness, so I’ll just post the photos. Enjoy, and don’t forget to click the link to the photo gallery which has more photos.

 

Dall Sheep

There are many more of these two

The highest point in North America lies there.

One of those 5 mile views

There was some debate if this was an elusive white wolf or an even more rarely seen coyote.

I was thoroughly impressed to say the least. It was an awesome day. I finished my hike back from the visitor center to the car around 3:30PM and drove the next 100 miles or so to Fairbanks. The sky was blue, and the road smooth. I snapped some more photos on the way up before dedicating myself to a few hours of work preparing for my talk on Monday afternoon.

Here again is the photo gallery with many more Denali photos.

Alaska, oh boy!

I’m here! It wasn’t that long ago that I decided Alaska was my next big goal. I’ve ridden so many places, and the new stuff keeps getting farther away. I was saving a motorcycle trip to here for after my PhD graduation, and I still am, but this trip with me and a car is winding up to be fantastic in its own right.

I left Austin around dusk on Friday the 9th. It had been a busy day already with work on my looming talk and a helium transfer to get the paleomag lab running again. The flight was delayed, so my eventual arrival in Anchorage was well after midnight. And I forgot my book. Picking up Michner’s Space in the airport and some naps kept me occupied during most of the travel. With the three hour time difference and 10 hours of travel after a long day I may as well have been a zombie by the time I got to my hotel. Sleep came and was appreciated until the phone rang at 6AM, and I was wide awake.

I used the early hours to make plans for the trip and to hunt souvenirs for friends and family. Anchorage is full of nice shops and restaurants. It is quite pleasant. Also, I came at the end of tourist season, and there was a big outdoor market of local artisans and more. I had a nice phone call and wandered around town exploring the port and downtown area. After picking up a car and lunching plus shopping for snacks and socks, which I had left in the washing machine, I was on my way north – to Denali.

1) View of Lake Travis, about as low as I’ve ever seen it. The big island isn’t usually there. 2) View from my hotel around sunrise. Mountains are in the background. 3) Early sight from the one highway going north. Colors are a little messed up because I wanted to show the clouds. The leaves, as you will see later, are extremely yellow.

The road to Fairbanks takes a little over 6 hours under normal conditions, but these weren’t normal conditions. It took me at least 6 hours just to get to Healy, a little town north of Denali Park entrance. Finding a hotel for the night and a place to eat wasn’t difficult since there were only a couple of places for each. Stopping by a firepit at the entrance to the restaurant I came across two dudes discussing who knows what, and shortly I joined in. One was from Texas and had been living there for several years. His name was Cody, and he invited me to the end of the season party down the road. I had nothing better to do and figured it would be a good way to kill an evening. So after a king crab meal and cleaning up I headed out to see what Alaskans do to celebrate the going away of tourists. It’s pretty much what everyone does everywhere, drink. They were very proud to offer a live band doing covers of Steve Miller and the likes. I was a little early and met some people who had just arrived from traveling in South America. The conversation was good, and the whiskey wasn’t as expensive as one might think.

I had my fill and went back to the hotel for the second night in a row of not nearly enough sleep. The next morning was Denali, and I wanted to make sure I saw it.

All in all the drive was great. Weather cooperated for the most part, but I could have used some more sun. It’s not fair to show these photos because all of them were superb. In case you want to see more
Here is the entire photo gallery