Well I’m officially back in the lower 48 from one amazing Alaskan adventure. My family and I spent the last two weeks bouncing around the state, starting in Fairbanks and moving towards Denali, spending a quick night in Anchorage and then cruising around down to Sitka. Each portion of the trip had its own special element so today I’m going to take you through the first portion – the land portion – and the famous Denali National Park.
As I mentioned above, we had two weeks on the trip – one week on the land and one week on the sea. It’s hard to say which one was my favorite since both were oh so different. Both portions were with the company Uncruise, the sort of tour company that focuses on the wilderness and wildlife.
We flew out of LAX bright and early on Sunday morning to Anchorage where we spent our layover walking up and down the very small airport. My mom, Meghan, and I were somewhat obsessed with getting our steps in and so off throughout the terminal we went. Of course we needed to get a picture with the first wildlife of the trip.
After spending one quick night in Fairbanks, it was off to Denali via the Alaska train and later school bus. It was sort of strange to go to bed and wake up (around 5 in order to run) and have the sun already out. I’m not sure I could manage that year round, especially when that means it would be gone most of the winter!
One of the perks of this travel arrangement was that we got to ride in style and enjoy delicious meals for the entirety of the trip. Eating in the dining car of a train sure seems like a good bucket list item. Check!
Not only does my dad do an excellent job researching and planning our trips but he always documents what we do throughout the trip.
Another perk of the Uncruise trip was that we were able to stay overnight in the heart of Denali – Kantishna. This is about a 6 hour ride via bus from the park entrance but thankfully there are a few rest stops along the way to get out, use the facilities and stretch your legs. Our bus driver was simply a doll and shared stories throughout the ride as well as stopping any time that we saw wildlife.
^^ Good ‘ol Fredson as Kirsty (our driver) named the bus
^^ MOOSE ON THE LOOSE! Day 1 of the trip and we had already seen plenty of caribou and three moose at the visitors center. Who would have thought?
Some people had asked if we were going to hike Mount Denali (formally known as Mount McKinley) and no, we did not (nor will I ever). Located in the Interior Alaska, it’s the highest mountain and North America. The land is made up of forest,deciduous taiga, tundra, glaciers, rock, and yes snow. There are over 400,000 people that visit the park each year (source) and most of these folks visit via vehicle along the 91-mile Denali Park Road, 15 miles of which are available to private vehicles. There’s only a small bit of the road that is paved thanks to permafrost so your best bet is to ride with a tour group.
While we didn’t hike Mount McKinley per se, we did hike along the Kantishna portion, located at the very end of the road. We are used to hiking in Mammoth with completely groomed switchback trails, wide enough for people to walk two by two. This was not the case and we were left to push through various bushes and vegetation as we entered a cloud.
^^ Here’s our first glimpse at sled dogs. Later in the week we would have the opportunity to visit sled dogs on a glacier, which was probably one of the highlights of the week.
More nature to come…
“What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.” – Mollie Beattie (Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)