Sunday, July 15, 2012

The best piece of advice for your bus ride into Denali National Park.

Once we arrived at the entrance to Denali National Park, bought some lunch, and found our bus for the ride, we found a seat in the second seat of the bus.  And by bus, I mean school bus-style.  Nothing fancy.  No bathroom at the back of the bus.  Just your basic transportation.

The road is just over 90 miles long.  It's gravel after about 15 miles, and then, after a while longer, it's one lane, not two, so when two buses are coming towards one another, one bus has to pull as far over as possible and stop, waiting for the other to pass.  During our trip we had quite a range of weather from rainy to sunny, chilly to warm, still to windy as heck.  Take a light jacket and wear short sleeves.

For much of the trip, one side of the bus has a great view over an open valley, and the other side of the bus has a view of the side of a mountain.    Want to know what side of the bus we sat on?

When you are headed into the park, sit behind the driver - this is the side of the bus with the view.  When you are headed out of the park, sit on the other side.  When you are on the side of the bus with the view, you don't have to rely on the kindness of your fellow travelers to get the hell out of your way and let you take pictures.  We were on the wrong side of the bus for the trip in.

We were headed to the Backcountry Lodge, near the end of the road.  It's in an area referred to as Kantishna.  It's the farthest place you can stay, but there are at least 3 lodges you can choose from in Kantishna.  When you head that far out it takes 6 hours to get there and they give you 3 potty/photography stops.  I didn't take any pictures until our first potty break.  Like I said, wrong side of the bus.

What you see here is a braided river.  The river bed is very wide, and the river takes many channels.  Those channels can change frequently.  The reason is that the glaciers give off glacier flour or glacier silt.  It's very very fine powder, and so it mucks up the water, which means no fish, and it leaves a whole lot of silt on the river bed.

We saw some animals.  A bear on the side of the road too busy to raise his head for pictures.  Dall sheep so far up the mountainside (or were they mountain goats?) that the pictures just didn't work out.  I have to say, many animals gave us their backside as a view.  I have so many animal butt shots, I don't know what to do with them all.

Second best piece of advice for your trip to Denali National Park:  Get thyself to the Eielsen Visitor Center!  It's about a four hour drive from the entrance to the park, and give a great view.
So panoramic you have to turn your head from one side to the other to take it all in.  This is about the center half of the view.  The amazing valley and then the Alaska Range.
I love the shadows from the clouds and the different colors they lend to the mountains.
While we were there Mount McKinley did a good job of staying in her clouds.  She's such a big mountain that she makes her own weather.  But while we continued our trip to the lodge, this is what we were able to see:
Mt. McKinley
We were able to see a good amount of the mountain.  That's what people call it.  The Mountain.  "Did you see The Mountain?"  FYI - only 20-30% of visitors see Mt. McKinley in all her glory without clouds.  It's kind of an exclusive club.

Next up - our stay at the Backcountry Lodge in Kantishna.

See the full itinerary here...

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We've since moved to Alaska!  Read about Our Alaska Life here...

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