Denali highway

denali park in Alaska

Wow…who would have guessed that driving across a gravel road for 130 miles in the rain could be a pain?

Normally, as you cross the famous Denali Highway, which is mostly gravel and about as remote as you can get, you would have Mt McKinley rising up in the clouds in front of you. With the rain and cold weather, we could barely see 50 meters in front of the car, so we amused ourselves by watching out the windows for moose or other wildlife. There were no radio stations, and the rolling volcanic landscapes seemed unearthly. Sometimes a huge gray plate of rock would suddenly jut up out of a green meadow, only to drop off again abruptly on the other side.

Very strange, and we rarely passed any civilization or other vehicles on this dreary day. Our white rental car was getting so dirty that you could not even see the brake lights or license plate.

Rental Car Alaska

When we finally got to the western side of the range, the weather broke slightly and we made a bee-line for Denali National Park. There was still no chance of seeing Mt McKinley, a mountain so nasty that it generates its own weather which it later shares with the rest of North America. A handful of people die every year (two this year) while trying to finish an ascent of 20,320ft (6194 meters) to the summit. That doesn’t stop over a thousand people from lining up to take their chances with the mountain.

I didn’t want to climb the damn thing…I just wanted to see it!

The trip to Denali was still worth the diversion. We did a small day hike to a nice viewpoint and the sun actually came out for one of the first times on this trip! We explored the visitor’s center which was full of videos and instructional things which I would normally blow past had it not been raining outside. To limit the impact in the park, you can only drive so far and then have to pay to be horded onto buses and then convoyed deeper into the park to watch for wildlife. No thanks; we passed.

We hit the road south and landed in the small town of Talkeetna just north of Anchorage which turned out to be a surprisingly great vagabonding stop.

Denali National Park

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