Denali, Alaska (In Case You Decide to Visit)


If you ever get the privilege of visiting a land as grandiose and majestic as Alaska, you might as well go tearing through it at eye-popping speeds and try to bang it out in just a couple of days.  Why take several weeks to drink in the vast expanses of wild beauty, when you can do it in a long weekend?  Learn from us.  It can be done.  Hell, they even spot you a few extra daylight hours in the summer to tick off the mile markers.   Just load up on unholy quantities of caffeine and junk food, buckle up and hit the highway.  Please keep your hands and feet in the car (and for God’s sake, no flash photography).

Our day began with us powering through a couple of Moose McMuffins and Gatorade (drink of champions), before the serious riding. We were assigned (sentenced to?) a wheezy Detroit road nugget – not much to talk about on the asphalt – but her seats were smartly designed for a single clear objective: to contort the lumbar vertebrae into a spastic twist that could attract a pit of lovesick sidewinders and fund an army of earnest chiropractors.

Soooo… anyway…our fire-red chariot of pain came screaming into the Denali area at around 3:00 in the afternoon. With no real plan, we screeched to a sudden, dusty halt aside one of Alaska’s ubiquitous dirt landing strips.  A nice sign advertised private plane rides around the big Daddy-O of North American mountains, Mt. McKinley (or Denali in the native tongue).  The ever-present Lonely Planet guidebook emphasized that a flight around this monster was an absolute must, especially on a clear day.  Well, the gods were smiling on us then (or busy with non-weather related tasks) because the skies on both of our days in Denali were astoundingly clear.

Flying Around

So for just a lint ball over four hundred skins, we were aloft.  As our capable pilot, Rick, tootled over the Alaskan wilderness in his single engine Cessna, he courteously pointed out the various ‘things.’

The airplane ride lasted about an hour – twenty minutes travel time each way across the Alaskan wilderness and twenty minutes banking and soaring around the mountain.

I think we managed to get some pretty reasonable photos.

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Just a Plane Shot From the Cockpit Nervous Nellie?

Now here is an important point. See, Alaskans are so enamored with their state (who can blame them?) that many have evolved into knowledgeable, world-class lecturers.  For example, ask some typical gas station hand, “Where can I buy beer?”  You won’t get, “Uh yeah, head to the Silver Fox just down the road.  They got beer.  And pizza.”  No sir.  What you’ll get is more like: “Interesting that you should ask.  Back when Jeff McHenry established the Sysakka turn-off in ’07, old governor Jonathan “Stomp and Swagger” McBride has just repealed Proposition 14, which prohibited the transportation of spirits, including, without limitation, your beer, by pack dog or sledge.  So it wasn’t until ’09 that McHenry’s dog team finally arrived with the first beer in the region.  But the funny thing is, that beer didn’t actually arrive by dog or sledge.  See, our annual snowfall in April is around near 39 inches.  But on this particular year, the arctic low pressure band wasn’t picking up near enough moisture from the still-frozen Beaufort Sea – which gave us about 12 inches of snow that year.  So turns out, in addition to the early arrival (and near extinction) of the club-footed booble goose, McHenry had to carry the damn barrels himself over nearly 300 miles of mud and glacier rock…”  You get the idea.  Ask a question?  Be prepared for a symposium.

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Shadows over the Mountain A crystal View



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A Typical Panorama Greens and Browns



We woke up very early to pack, check out of the lodge, and catch the 5:30 am bus into the National Park.  I wasn’t sure what I was doing greeting that hour, since when we typically meet, I catch it from the other side.

Anyway, the bus took us on a nine hour adventure through pristine countryside to spot wildlife, photograph the countryside, and breathe the super fresh air.

The spotting tour was fruitful, as we saw Caribou, Bears, Rodents, Birds, Marmots, Sheep, and the Old Man McKinley in full glory.


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