In the previous installment, I talked about the fishing trip. As much fun as that was, it was just the first day. Oh, bonus picture: here’s a panorama of the boat dock where the boys were throwing stones:
Where was I? Oh, right; the drive to Denali. The route is a straight shot up the Parks Highway. On the west, you can see the Kichatna Mountains, and on the east you pass from the Talkeetna Mountains up into the Alaska Range. The drive is pretty flat overall, but no less spectacular for all that. Here’s a panoramic shot of the view out into the Alaska Range from one of our roadside stops:
We made a ton of stops to take pictures. On the drive north, first we passed into the Denali State Park, which has all kinds of scenic overlooks facing both east and west. One of them was the Alaska Veterans’ Memorial, so of course we had to stop for that. It was surprisingly large, given Alaska’s small population, and both well-maintained and well-attended. There were easily 50 people there walking around while we were there, which surprised me a bit. The state park’s southern boundary is a looooong way from the national park, which is a little misleading. (Oh, and cell phone service: not really. Don’t count on using a phone-based GPS on this route!)
The most scenic part of the drive was probably the passage over Hurricane Gulch. This description (and the pictures) do a good job of giving you the sense of it, but you really have to see it– the camera doesn’t capture the scale very well.
Denali itself was a bit of an anticlimax. The park is enormous– 90+ miles from side to side. You can take bus tours, but we didn’t have time to do that, and the boys were tired of riding in the car so they didn’t want to drive out to Savage River, the limit of how far you can drive in your own car. We compromised by having lunch (mediocre, but we were hungry so we didn’t care) and visiting the visitor’s center, which has some terrific dioramas. My favorite: the wolf trotting away from a kill with a bone in its mouth, looking for all the world like a deranged cousin of your friendly pet dog.
On the trip back to Anchorage, the boys were in great spirits, aided by our stop back in Talkeetna to pick up some clothes we’d left at the hotel and to get our fish. 15.5 pounds’ worth of fish, packed in a lovely shipping box by the Talkeetna Smokehouse lady. It also didn’t hurt that we didn’t have to stop at every scenic overlook so we could ooh and aah, although we did stop at a few. Mt. McKinley was more clearly visible on the drive south, but even so, this was as good as our view got:
It was full dark by the time we got to Anchorage; we had dinner about 10:30p at Red Robin (mostly because they were still open), then got to the airport, dropped off the rental, and waited, somewhat grumpily, for our 1:20a flight. Everyone slept on the plane, which was good– we needed it!
Summary: great trip. Alaska is beautiful, and I’m eager to go back, hopefully during a time with better weather and more salmon!
Most of the (good) pictures I took are here. The bad ones got deleted, of course.