Alaska – My Better Half, Denali Day 1

Monday morning marked my departure from Anchorage. I headed north toward Denali hoping that somehow the weather would improve. It was unlikely since Denali is known for having pretty wet weather in August and, in fact, only 20% of annual park visitors actually see Mt McKinley. Maybe I should’ve checked that before planning this trip. In typical Alaskan fashion, the distance up there is much longer than it appears on a map – about 5 hours driving. If you take the scenic train ride that stretches to about 9 hours (and the cost stretches too). I got in around noon, with plenty of time to assess the weather and figure out a gameplan for the park.

That's the Aussie couple. We'll see them again

That’s the Aussie couple. We’ll see them again

There are a few options for Denali: 1) you can stay in a shitty cabin/motel just outside the park boundaries for an exorbitant price, 2) you can stay at a crowded campground near the entrance or at a campground inside the park, or 3) get a backcountry permit for camping in a certain section. There is a main access road, serviced by park vehicles only, and it traverses the 140km east-to-west distance of the core park area. There’s much more beyond this area but it can only be accessed via bush planes. Given the spotty weather, I opted for a campground inside the park, which I thought offered the best compromise. Had I chosen to backcountry camp, I would have been limited to a certain area, and if the weather there was bad I wouldn’t have had much recourse.

These buses run every every hour or so. After you get off one and it roars off into the distance, it sure gets quiet.

These buses run every every hour or so. After you get off one and it roars off into the distance, it sure gets quiet.

The campground I chose was a couple hours bus ride into the park and it has about 6 sites, so its still small and quiet. Its also somewhat central in the park so its easy to bus around the park, finding good weather or diverse places to hike. As a bonus, the pine trees at the campground grow such thick needles that the rain doesn’t penetrate around the base, so you can cook/eat/chill outside without getting wet. No sooner had I set up my tent when a big grizzly came sauntering through the campground. I scrambled to get my food into a bear-proof cache, so I didn’t get a pic.

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