Up at 5:30 a.m. this morning, 30deg. & cloudy. The plan today is to take 4.5 to 5 hr. tour of Denali National Park, traveling 27 miles into the park.
Denali national Park and Preserve was established in 1917 as Mount McKinley National Park. It was designated a park and preserve – and renamed Denali – in 1980. The mountain was officially renamed Denali in 2015. The park lies on both sides of the Alaska Range, 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The park is open all year, although visiting access varies with the change of seasons. Opening and closing dates for the Park Road or deependent on the weather (specifically, the snow).
At approximately 6 million acres, most visitors will see only a fraction of the Park from the 92 mile long Park Road, ( which was constructed between 1923 in 1938). The crown jewel of the park is Dinali, North America's highest mountain at 20,310 feet. The Park is vast and wild with few established trails, a treasure in part because it's a place where visitors may still see large animals at home in the wild: caribou, bear, wolf, Dall sheep, and moose.
At 7:30 a.m. we
all walked to the pickup spot on the main highway to meet up with our tour bus which will take us into the Park. Our guide Gary from California has been driving these guided tours for almost 20 yrs and clearly loves his work. It didn't take us long to see a moose meandering across the roadway, without a care or concern that he was holding up traffic...here, the animals have the right of way! 2.0 million of the acres in Denali are designated as a wilderness area and true to the motto of the park, truly "... leave no footsteps behind you..." the only changes to the park have been minimal and you can see the evidence of this as you drive through. The bus carried 42 passengers and anytime someone saw an animal, the driver would stop to identify what you were seeing, sometime 1000s of yards away. We saw a grizzly roaming for berries in the far distance and you will see from the picture attached that he was absolutely unconcerned about us as he went on his way. At one point the bus stopped for us to get out and stretch our legs. I walked about
a 100 yards away from the bus and was transported to quite another world of quiet and stillness with a gentle breeze blowing, a somewhat zen state. Gary gave us a detailed description of how Denali came to be established and the battles its supporters fought for many years to keep the Park in such a pristine state as it is today. I won't bore you with all the details, which I'm sure you can read on Wickipedia on your own. During one of the stops on the tour we had an enlightening talk by 'Cheyenne' a native Athabascan Indian whose ancestors settled Alaska, thousands of years ago, crossing the Bering Strait from Russia over what was then a "land bridge" to North America before volcanic action, & movement of tectonic plates of the earth's crust separated the land masses into two separate continents. After the tour, Dorrie & I went back to the Visitor Center and caught a shuttle to the kennel where the Park's Alaskan Husky dogs are kept and trained to work in the park, which they've done since the Park was first established, We saw a fascinating demonstration of these working dogs who transport staff throughout
the Park where work is be ing done and carry supplies, tools etc. for various projects including a bridge that was recently built in the Park. We returned to the Visitors Center to watch a video presentation on the Park showing the "Seasons of the Park". We got back to our RV in time for cocktails, dinner and cards after, Home, for an early evening and try to go to sleep when the sun doesn't set until after 11pm. Another great day in Alaska.
Tomorrow we head for the Kenai Penninsula, with our first night's stay on the way at Portage, AK.
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