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Tallest Mountain!

June 25, 2010

June 21st – June 22nd

Although our stay with the Douglas’ was pretty damn near utopian, we were feeling the call of the road again and we decided, with the weather forecast looking pretty solid, to hit the trails again. We took care of a number of things before we left, tidying up the garage and preparing a special sign which will be revealed in the coming week(s).  Our first stop would be a mere 250ish miles away: Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). We rolled into the park, about 8pm intending to camp in the onsite. We drove about 8 miles in, to take a look at the savage river camp ground, which had 33 camping sites (142 at the lower riley creek) the way up was beautiful, the sun was at about what it would be around noon back home, and the mountains were ablaze with color. Unfortunately the campsite turned out to be only for RVs, and the To actually get a site, you had to register back at riley creek (not something that was evident from park signage, I might add). We arrived at the visitor center to find that ALL sites were full, and there would be any available for sometime. We talked to two of the most obstinate people I’ve ever met in customer service, who refused to give us information easily, each question was answered with one line… as if to say that we should really already know the answers to them. I mean, we’d obviously been there forever… having explained we just rolled in from Massachusetts and all, right? Needless to say we took off for a campsite a little bit down the road, after having reserved a spot on the shuttle bus tours to Wonder Lake! Ooooh.  The guy at the desk told us that the tours fill up, and are filling up everyday and that we need to reserve a spot or else we wont get to do what we wanted. 

Now at the campsite, we encountered yet another nincompoop who informed us that although the campsite was only 15 bucks a night (hooray cheep!) the credit card system would take as long as half an hour, and that cash would be preferable. While we tried to decide how many nights we would spend there, we asked her if she knew what the weather was goin to be like in the coming days. She Said that she didn’t know, and the girl behind her, who seemed like she was new, said that she could probably check online for us, but the one actively helping said

“No, that’s alright… that would be going *above and beyond the call of duty*”

It took all I could muster to keep myself from slapping my palm to my face. Regardless, we got to our site to find that it was missing a fire pit, the spot next door was open, it had a fire pit but no picnic table. Using our combined strength, will and mindpower… we were able to solve the problem, I assure you it took everything we had.  The campsite was more closely related to a truck stop than an actual campsite, the RV traffic was nonstop till about midnight, the rafting company that was adjacent was a nonstop party till about 2am. In their defense, we were there on June 21st, which as everyone knows is the solstice. In Alaska, the Summer Solstice is a big deal and is cause for much celebration.

Our adventure into Denali Nat’l Park the following morning was an early one, arriving a good 20 mins early for our 9:15 reservation. As we boarded the bus we tried to pick good seats as the trip was going to be 11 hours round trip, holy crap. By the time we left there were a total of 17 people on the bus with a maximum capacity of 56 I think. Our bus Shuttle Driver was named Cindy and she was very nice and incredibly well educated about the park and truly had a passion for her work.

The bus chugged along towards our destination we were informed that the park is 6 million acres—a little smaller than the size of Massachusetts.  That news gave us great hope to see the many animals of the area. There was a lot of fantastic scenery, which the pictures I will post does no justice, truly magnificent. The wildlife, however…was very well hidden this day. We saw some sheep, some caribou that were so far away that you could barely make out their forms. And a couple bears that suffered the same proximity issues. It really was not at all what we were expecting. As we reached the midpoint of the day the rain started commin’ down in a light drizzle, it progressed slowly into a heavy rain, then to hail. It subsided quickly but the damage was done, the clouds completely obscured our final chance to McKinley, oh well (I read later that only 30 percent of the people who come to see the mountain actually get to, so we were in the majority at least, that’s always comforting. The ride home was pretty quiet and we were pretty much done with bus rides by the end. We made our way back to the bikes and headed for the little down of Healy for some much deserved pizza, beer and ice cream.  That night we slept like we slept like

metaphorical logs… literally. Apparently spending 11 hours on a bus is exhausting.



One Comment leave one →
  1. Claudia Chapman permalink
    June 25, 2010 7:24 pm

    Hi Peter and Sebastian;

    We’ve been enjoying the stories of your adventures!

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