Slept well with the windows open, lulled by the sounds of the Susitna river. Fresh coffee in the River Lodge lounge and then off to breakfast with Lisa and Josh of Great Alaska.
Josh chose a locally famous breakfast spot, the Roadhouse. The Roadhouse has existed since early 1900's, serving as a restaurant and small hotel for miners, railroad workers, tourists and mountain climbers. They serve ENORMOUS breakfasts, so be sure to ask for a half order. And we knew we would need all that food, because we were exploring Denali National Park today...
In a bus.
Denali is mostly inaccessible by car. The first rangers used sleds and dogs to patrol the park and prevent poaching. In fact, Denali was established because miners and railroad workers were decimating animal populations, especially Dall sheep. Concerned sport hunters, who had seen this occur in the lower 48, petitioned the government to establish protected lands. When tourists started to come to Alaska (quite the traveling feat), the rangers needed a way to get them in and out of the park - and wisely decided to protect the park from vehicles, instead establishing bus tours.
In Denali, private vehicles can drive the first fifteen miles of THE road in Denali. Park Road is 92 miles long - after Savage River, only Park buses can continue on the single lane, gravel miles. They have tour buses and transit buses: If you want to get off and on and hike or camp, transit buses. Seeing the park with tour guide narration? Tour buses, choosing either 5 hours, 7- 8 hours, or 12 hours. We were scheduled for the 8 hour bus.
Our bus was comfortable and clean - tour guide knowledgable and friendly. Like many people in Alaska, he said he had the best job in the world. We stopped about every 2 hours at rest areas with plentiful facilities and beautiful views. At the turnaround point, our BIG VIEW of Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley), the lady was feeling shy so our photo is of clouds, no mountain. Even though the guide had a photo of what that view was SUPPOSED to look like, it was hard to picture.
See photos of hills and mountains, Dahl sheep, caribou and Barr-i-bou.Dinner at the Salmon Bake and then tucked in. Denali is beautiful...too bad we didn't get to see the grand lady...