Saturday, July 12, 2014

Denali National Park

     We departed Talkeetna and traveled the 152 miles north to Denali National Park. Although we had seen the mountain several days (both from the plane tour and wonderful, clear weather in Talkeetna) there is still so much else to do here.  We camped at Riley Creek, the largest campground in the park and the only one open year round.  There are also smaller campgrounds for RVs at Savage River and Teklanika.  We made these reservations back on December 1st of last year when they became available.  This park stays very full

     This campground is very nice, but it is important to note there are NO ELECTRICAL OR WATER HOOKUPS.  A potable water spigot is available at the Riley Creek Mercantile RV dump station.  Generators can only be run 8-10 a.m. and 4-8 p.m.  We depended on our battery bank/solar panels for the majority of our power.  Generator was run to top off the bank when needed.  There are many other considerations to be aware of as well. 
These are not obtrusive, but worth noting in advance so as to plan. 

     Denali Nat'l Park is over 6 million acres, but with only a single road leading into the park.  At the NE corner near Healy the Park Entrance Road leads 97 miles into the park passing several campgrounds, the Visitor Center, Wilderness Access Center, the Eielson Center, and the Wonder Lake Lodge.  At road's end (Kantishna) you are still 35 miles from Mt. McKinley.  Backcountry permits are required to even hike into the wilderness.  Needless to say everything is kept pretty remote and undisturbed.  Unfortunately, you may only drive your own vehicle for the first 13 miles to the Savage River Campground.  Tour busses are available for a fee to take you to the other stops, but they take from 6-13 hours.  This includes tour groups, back country hikers, and climbers as well.    We really didn't want to leave Dharma and Bodhi alone that long.  Besides, after our air tour of the park last week we were pretty satisfied already and decided to make this stop for rest/relaxation, photography, and some hiking. 
At this end of the park, the terrain consists of a large valley surrounded by an assortment of peaks.  In fact there are 114 peaks over 10,000 feet in the park.  Another pretty spectacular view.
     There are an assortment of animals in the park, but naturally the two most common are moose and bears.  There is a fairly large concentration of brownies (grizzly) here. 

     Bear attacks in Alaska are not common, but neither are they rare.  A jogger was attacked near the Air Force base in Anchorage days before our arrival and a hiker was caught off guard and mauled earlier this week here in the park when she came across a sow and cubs unexpectedly.  When hiking around the Savage River one day we came across this moose rub, where bull moose pick a tree to rub the velvet off their antlers as they grow to relieve the itching.  To put this it into perspective, this tree is approximately 11 feet tall and 5 inches in diameter. 
     The facilities in the park are FIRST RATE from the buildings to the parking to the trails to even the bathrooms.  The RV dump facility at Riley Creek offers 4 lanes, but there were still usually lines each morning as folks departed.  One area we visited the bathrooms were new and I found the bear proof design of the door fascinating, if not downright a bit frightening as to what they are designed to protect you from.  You can count the bolts if you like.  There are 112 of them.

     I am sad to say we saw neither bears nor moose nor Mt. McKinley during our visit to the park, but did see several eagles.  Bodhi and Dharma did love our camping area and enjoyed many hours of just laying out, playing with the pine cones, and probably imagining what they would actually do if they could catch one of those squirrels.  We also finally got around to taking a picture with our SPARTY gnome mascot.  There are lifelong Spartan fans everywhere!  Our original intention was to do this at nearly every stop, but retirement does something to your memory.    You could probably title this one "Sparty Does Denali" or maybe even "Who Gives a Crap that LeBron Went Back to Cleveland?" 
     There is cell service only at the entrance to the park and the Riley Creek area, but it is notoriously 'spotty' at best with very little bandwidth.   In fact, I usually set my alarm to get up no later than 5 a.m. to surf a bit or even post this blog.  Surprisingly there is little online traffic at this hour. We were able to effectively use our Verizon Hot Spot.
     We are off to Fairbanks and North Pole, AK next.  This is hailed as the Christmas Capital of the World.  I don't know if it rivals Leavenworth, WA or Frankenmuth, MI, but we'll see if it stands up under Barb's scrutiny. 

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