We made it to Denali, finally. It’s a short 3 hour drive from Fairbanks. We were fortunate because we were able to see Mt. McKinley from the road; albeit, quite a distance away. Traffic was light because we got up early enough to get ahead of the large motorhomes that were eventually going in the same direction. There’s some major road construction on both sides of Denali Park, so we had to slow down for about 8 miles. We stopped at the “touristy shops” outside the Park and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a bagel. We also checked out the shops and realized that we’ll have access to the same things at a much affordable price when we get closer to Anchorage. In fact, a ceramic tile that I had my eyes on was made in Palmer, AK. That’s where we’ll be for the next 2 days once we leave Denali.
Yesterday was a GREAT day! We had made reservations beforehand for the 6:00 AM Eielson Shuttle Tour. We got up at 4:30, had coffee, and packed our day packs with sandwiches, chips, water, and various munchies. It’s an 8 hr. bus trip to Eielson Center and return. To make a long story short, WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND this tour; especially the early morning run. We saw 9 grizzly bears, dozens of caribou, Dall sheep, Willow Ptarmigan, a golden eagle, and several moose; AND the top of Mt. McKinley. We are now members of the 30% Club. That’s about the number of people that actually get to see the top of Mt. McKinley overall.
Once we got back to the entrance of the Park I checked out the short films in the Wilderness Center and the Visitor’s Center. They give a great history of the story of the making of the Park. Today, John and I walked over to the Wilderness Center as well as the Visitor’s Center so he could buy his lifetime Senior Pass to the National Parks for $10. Congratulations, John, for being an old guy. It’s official!
This afternoon we plan on visiting the Sled Dogs and watching a Sled Dog Demonstration by the Parks Department. Denali is the only National Park that uses sleds and sled dogs in the winter. They had tried using snow mobiles in the past, but they were unreliable in -30+ degree weather. They have never had an issue with sled dogs breaking down or refusing to go further. It should be an interesting demonstration.