The Athabascan native people gave the peak that crowns the Alaska Range the name Denali, meaning the "High One." Mount McKinley or Denali at 20,320 feet high can be seen on a clear day in Anchorage, about 230 miles away. The National Park covers 6 million acres and looks wild and unspoiled. Caribou, moose, Dall sheep, wolves, wolverines, lynx, grizzly bears and black bears are the large animals that inhabit the land along with more than 650 species of flowering plants plus many species of mosses, lichens, fungi, algae and other forms of life.
We "camped" at the Grizzly Bear Resort outside the park for about a week. It was ok and we met several interesting people and one cool group of 75 people from Michigan. They had 11 rented vans, many rented tents, etc. for 40 high school kids plus advisors, councilors, and chaperones. All year this big group has raised money for the flight to Anchorage and back and the expenses for camping for three weeks. Cute, friendly kids and brave grownups! And we met a couple who rode up from Houston on a motorcycle and found out the guy was a cousin of Skippy Daigle who officiated our wedding and she taught school with a friend of ours in Humble! Small world.
Denali Park. It's vast. You can drive a short distance into the park but mostly you have to ride the buses on tours to see the sights or to go hiking or camping because private cars are not allowed very far into the park. The sights being the High One and other mountains and of course the animals. We took the Wonder Lake bus tour that lasts 11 hours roundtrip and saw grizzly females with young cubs, caribou, dall sheep, moose, eagles, snowshoe hares, and had a great time. Our driver was very knowledgeable and we had a great time. At about halfway of the 85 mile one way trip, we saw Denali! Wow! It's so dramatic - so big that we mistook it for clouds over the lower mountains when we first saw it. At Wonder Lake, which is where the famous pictures of Denali reflected in a lake are taken, it was cloudy and raining but cleared enough before we left for us to see and photograph it. Henry had babysitters for his long day - Joe and Claudia and Connie and Tim. We met them in Fairbanks and ran into them again at Denali. They checked on him and took him for walks while we were gone.
Another day we rode a bus up to the Dog Sled Demonstrations. In the winter months, these dogs actually work search and rescue operations and move materials and supplies by sled rather than motor vehicles. Some of the sled dogs are out in small fences and the public is invited to pet them and see them up close. Then the ranger gives a short talk about the sled dogs' value to the park, how they select and train them, and 6 or 8 of the dogs are attached to the sled. They pull the sled around a loop and back. The dogs love it! They start jumping up and down and barking as soon as they know they're going for a ride.
We moved to a campground inside Denali Park and our highlight in those three days was seeing a moose with her calf that she is fiercely protective of. Signs are all over the park warning that she will charge if she thinks you're too close to her calf and that people can be killed by her kicks! We stayed well back because she is big. We were told that the moose have learned that their enemies, bears and wolves, don't usually go into the park, so the moose have their young there and leave when the young are not so vulnerable. Smart Mama! The rangers are kept busy protecting the tourists from the moose and the moose from the tourist.
We did go on several hikes and saw some wonderful "off road" views like the Savage River photos in the collection.
Another neat thing about Denali is that it is opened year round but is only busy during the summer when they hire about 1500 students to work in the stores and such. We met a lot of them and were really impressed with their spirit and friendly attitude.