Monday, June 20, 2011

Denali National Park

Well, I feel like I’ve arrived at my destination now.  On our previous trip we spent two or three days in Denali and wished we’d had time to stay longer.  Just hanging out here has been a dream ever since.

Our plan for this visit is twofold.  For our first 5 days we’ll be at Teklanika Campground 29 miles from the entrance of the park.  Our next 5 days we’ll move up to the front country and camp at Riley Creek right at the entrance.  We’re excited about both parts of this visit, but I think we’re looking forward to the backcountry Teklanika experience most of all.

We had a somewhat exciting night last night.  We went to bed and were sound asleep until the mosquitoes woke me up about midnight.  The temperature was a little on the warm side yesterday so we had left our vent open in the bedroom to help circulate the air.  The buzzing woke me up.  There were maybe 3 dozen mosquitoes trying to find a way through the vent screen.

Awake as I was, I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water.  I noticed the sun setting and watched that for a while.  I didn’t want to open a window or door to make a picture because I didn’t want to let the mosquitoes in.  About 12:30 AM I went back to bed.

Gene was the next to wake up.  About 3:30 the mosquitoes woke him up, but it was the sunrise that got his attention and he woke me up.  It was gorgeous.  This time I had to go outside to get a shot.  The sunrise was at our back window, but there were mountains out the front.  Since the granite often takes on the glow of the sun, I pulled back the curtain to see if that was the case this morning.  Not only were the mountains a  rosy glow, there was a fabulous sundog rising above the ridge.  What a glorious sight.

By the time we finally got up for the morning, the clouds had rolled in and it was pouring down rain when we pulled out of our overnight parking spot.  I was a little discouraged by the rain; I was hoping to see Denali on our drive in, but no such luck today.  Often here, rain will set in and last for days, but by noon the skies had cleared and it turned into a beautiful afternoon.  We’re at a little higher elevation here and the temperatures are cool with a slight breeze.  My jacket felt good this afternoon.

We’re parked tonight at McKinley RV and Campground.  It is located in the small community of Healy about 10 miles north of Denali.  We had no particular reason for choosing this campground, but we won’t come here again, nor will we recommend it.  It was very difficult to get into.  First, having approached from the north, we were not heading in the direction we needed to be to get into the campground.  We had to go back out on the highway and come in from the south side.  Second, there was the steep hill to get down to the lower level.  Finally, once we got down to the campground, they seem to be one road short.  We had to approach our site from the wrong direction. Either that or back up the row and then back into the site.  After juggling around as much as possible, we finally just moved the picnic table two sites down and drove over the grass into the next site, pulled forward into the driveway and then backed into our site.   The interior roads need some work.  There are several large pot holes and they are very bumpy.  When I asked Gene what he thought of the campground, he can’t even finish his sentences.

There is one good thing--the WiFi is great.  And we have a good view out our front window.  And, because we’re down below street level, we don’t hear any of the traffic on  very busy Alaska Route 3.  So I guess there are some good things about McKinley RV and Campground.

The cost is in line with the other campgrounds in the area--with tax $34.24.  No so bad for a big tourist area.  We had made a reservation.  Gene always does that when we’re in a popular area.  I don’t know if it would have been necessary or not.  They are almost full as I’m writing this.

After we got settled and had lunch, we drove into the park to pick up what we needed for our Teklanika stay.  We got all checked in.  They even checked us in to Riley campground, so we won’t have to go back for that.  While at the Wilderness Access Center, we watched the film.  You know how we like to do that.

We’re not allowed to take our car to Teklanika, so after the film we drove over to the main visitor center to find the parking lot where we’re to leave the car.  That was right next to the bookstore and ice cream shop.  We browsed around the bookstore a while, but it was only a slight diversion.  The real goal was ice cream.  The bookstore also had other stuff and I think I’ve found a sweater that needs a new home.  I resisted today, but that resistance is beginning to crumble already.

So tomorrow morning we head out to Teklanika.  We asked the ranger about cell service out there.  She didn’t actually laugh out loud.  In a sweet little voice and with a smile she said no way.  I guess this will be the last you hear from me until we’re settled in at Riley Creek on the 26th.

CRITTER COUNT:  I didn’t think I was going to see anything today.  Nothing on the Parks Highway, nothing driving into Denali that little bit.  Then, on the way home, I just happened to look down at a pond and there was a mother moose with two little darlings following along behind wading right through the middle of that pond.  Precious!

That’s all for now.  I’ll be back in a few days.  Thanks for tagging along.

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