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Published: September 18th 2015
We awoke on Wednesday morning, while still dark, to the thrum of heavy rain upon our plywood roof. After a scratch breakfast of yet more cornflakes, we drove the 15 miles north to the Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali was one of the first things that we had booked, opting for the hop-on hop-off shuttle service that would carry us 92 miles into the park, almost to the base of Denali itself, the tallest mountain in North America. You cant drive further than the first 15 miles in your own car, so if you didn't feel like hiking the bus was the only alternative. (There are also very few set hiking trails in the park so you pretty much have free reign to walk any of the 6 million(!) acres that you like, which is quite amazing.) On arrival, however, we were informed that heavy snow had closed much of the road and that, after an hour's delay, it was likely that we would only make the first 30 miles of the trip.
We boarded our shuttle just before 9am to find that it was only half full which meant everyone was able to have a window seat with a great view. Our bus driver was the ever so bubbly and enthusiastic Anna who gave us tidbits and trivia throughout our journey. As we pulled away, our driver was informed that the road was now open as far as mile 50. As it turned out, the entire road was passable and we made it to Kantishna Mine at mile 92.6. Heavy cloud and snow meant that we were denied a view of Denali itself, but the rest of the park was spectacular. We were lucky enough to see two grizzly bears foraging for blueberries, a handful of Willow Ptarmigans and countless Dall Sheep. Parts of the road were pretty jaw-dropping, with sheer sides dropping down into the valley far below, but Anna made it seem easy, even in the snow. The entire journey took almost 12 hours but with plenty of stops we had along the way it was a really great trip.
It was pitch black and snowing in earnest by the time we returned to our cabin so once again we layered up and hunkered down.
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