With more than six million acres, Denali National Park and Preserve spreads far and wide over a huge section of Alaska north of Anchorage. We found travelers/tourists from all over the world slowing to take in the breath-taking views of the mountains, fall colors, misty vistas and wildlife as we approached the entrance and the camp registration offices. We were fortunate to have reserved several days at the Teklanika Campsite…this was Jorge’s good insight! As he read about and planned our path, he found that these sites are in high demand and reserved ours well in advance – we knew we would have to make it to Denali by August 23 or 24. Teklanika, the last camp area accessible by car/truck, is located at mile 29 on the Parks Highway. The next camps are walk-in tent access only. (It would be hard to carry the Tepui on our backs!)
As we set up camp, including the new annex (see the photo), we were met by one of the park rangers inviting us to the evening camp fire talk all about bears. Since we knew we would spend more than one night here, we decided to use the opportunity to check out the annex and its usability. Wow, not only was it easy to set up, we could have invited at least six of you to camp with us in this massive addition to our ‘summer home.’
The Park Highway is under strict control to help protect the wilderness qualities of this unique natural habitat with its diverse landscape and interesting animal population. Denali visitors take buses to the end of the rocky road…yes, another dirt highway. This turned out to be a plus for us. We were able to enjoy the scenery, and get a guided tour by a passionate driver who was an excellent animal spotter! He had much to offer – knowledge about the history of the park, animal behaviors, and conservation efforts. He truly appreciated the need for the protection of the park and explained how this would keep the wild in wilderness. It seems that the park has struck a good balance between sharing this beauty and making sure it lasts for generations to explore.
Along the way, we found bears – actual grizzly bears. Right there. Outside the bus. You can see in the photo progression – one, two, three. This mom and her cubs (3-year olds in their last year with their mother), were deemed ‘problem bears.’ They had become a little too curious and had begun to venture too close to the road. The park closed the nearby campground semi-permanently to allow for some wilderness rehabilitation. We were asked to be very quiet in the bus, so they would not become used to human voices and did not stay more than a few minutes…long enough to snap a few pictures and be on our way. By the time our Denali visit was done, we saw a total of eight grizzlies in a variety of settings, a herd of dahl sheep, some moose, a few caribou, a wolf and lots of arctic squirrels. Oh yes, and some antlers. Don’t you think I look just like Imogene?
Find Imogene’s story here: http://www.davidsmallbooks.com/imogenes-antlers/
As it turns out, Denali visitors do not always get a chance to see the mountain. The weather is constantly changing and often the summer finds the 20,310-foot-tall mountain and its companions socked in with thick clouds. We were thrilled to round a bend on the twisty park road to find the regal beauty rising high. We continued on the road to the Eielson Visitor Center located in the Eielson Bluff. The building alone shows the care and attention that the has been paid to honoring the space and beauty of this national park. You can read more about it here – https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/the-eielson-visitor-center.htm. The views of Denali from Eielson were remarkable! We hope that one day, we can bring the Z’s and Lilly here to share the experience.
Days 16 and 17 – 122 mi…Michele remembers Imogene’s Antlers