Sunday, September 27, 2015

Denali National Park and Preserve

Hey Peeps!

This post is all about the second day of our Alaskan land adventure.

 We boarded a beautiful coach from our hotel in Fairbanks destined for the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, which just so happens to be located one mile from the entrance to Denali National Park and Preserve.
It was approximately a two hour drive from Fairbanks. The sun was shining and there was barely a cloud the entire time. This afforded us what we were told a very rare opportunity to see Denali, formerly Mt. McKinley which was off in the distance.  The picture below isn't the best view because of haze, and it was an impromptu stop therefore Rick didn't have his zoom lens on. If you look really hard you can see Denali in the background, it is hard to see because it is completely snow covered.

We were given other opportunities to stop along the way to take advantage of photo ops, such as a little town called Nenana; which is home to the famous “Nenana Ice Classic”, a nature-based lottery in case you didn't know. What is the Nenana Ice Classic you ask?

Well the residents of Nenana sponsor an annual contest where entrants buy a ticket and pick a date in April or May and a time, to the closest minute, when they think the winter ice on the Tanana River will break up. This lottery began in 1917 among a group of surveyors working for the Alaska Railroad. They formed a betting pool as they waited for the river to open and boats to arrive with much needed supplies. People play it to this day from all over the world. The only hitch is that you must be in the state of Alaska in order to place your bet, and if you're wondering we opted not to play.

Nenana also has a little bit of history to it, such as when the railroad was completed in 1923, then President Warren Harding arrived to drive the final, golden spike at the north end of the 700 foot-long Mears Memorial Bridge (pictured below) which was built over the Tanana River. This railroad truss bridge, the longest in the United States and its territories at the time, gave Nenana a rail transportation link north to Fairbanks and Seward, Alaska.
The bridge still ranks as the longest span in Alaska and the third-longest truss bridge in the United States.

 There was a little museum of sorts there as well, and Rick couldn’t resist the opportunity to snap a pic of this beauty…surveyors used this first generation snowmobile to get around! 



When we finally arrived at the gorgeous Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, we spent the afternoon exploring the property and facilities. We had a lovely rustic room, and the property had many little shops, and restaurants not to mention some pretty stunning views.




After an amazing Alaskan King Crab leg dinner we retired relatively early as it had been a long day of travel, and we had our second excursion to look forward the next day; the natural history tour of Denali National Park and Preserve.
Denali National Park and Preserve

Generally speaking, I am the person that wildlife truly goes out of it's way to avoid. Seriously, they do. So if that sounds familiar than Alaska is the place for you. Denali National Park and Preserve hosts an array of wildlife from moose, caribou, Dall sheep and grizzly bears to gray wolves and red foxes. You would be pretty hard press not to see something.

In my humble opinion you haven't fully experienced Alaska unless you've been there. Its boundaries encompass an impressive six million acres, and it is simply wilderness at its best.

Look what was one of the first things we saw…isn't she awesome.

To see the park one utilizes a bus system (verses private car) that travels on a narrow ribbon of road, which was designed to reduce traffic and roadside disturbances so you can better see what you came to see. As you saw above, a single moose, wolf or bear, breathtaking close is priceless. The buses go along quietly, and stop constantly for photo ops as they come into view. When we booked this trip we had no idea that Alaska was going to be ablaze in fall colours. Apparently fall is an extremely short season in Alaska; from the first sight of colour change to leaves completely off the trees takes the span of about three weeks.   

A huge thank you should go out to people like Charles Sheldon, the parks forefather, Theodore Roosevelt, the “conservationist president”, Woodrow Wilson, the president that created the National Park Service and who signed the then Mt. McKinley National Park into law, along with a handful of other activists. For without them places like Denali National Park and Preserve wouldn’t exist today.

Think for a minute just how grand an ambition Charles Sheldon had when he took on the task to see to it that these icy mountains of granite, the living tapestry of flora and fauna that forms the vast wilderness, native animals big and small and pristine waters be preserved as a national treasure.
His task was to create this national park, and it's our task to maintain, defend and ultimately preserve it for our children and our children's children.

Ok peeps, we’re going to leave you to enjoy these few gorgeous pictures. I must say that most of what I saw in Alaska will be forever imprinted in my mind.
We might add a few more pictures to these posts as we come across them and of course some narrative to go along with them. Perhaps our travel companions have a few that they might like to share with you as well. Oh here is one Terry wanted to share, wink wink...

Tomorrow we are off to Mount McKinley Lodge, which is another 2 to 3 hour bus ride. Hopefully we will have some better photos of that magnificent mountain now known as Denali or “the high one” which is what it is referred to in the native Athabaskan language.

I hope you join us, thanks for stopping by.

Rick and Sandra :)