Denali is probably the most popular park in Alaska. This most likely has to do with the comparative ease of access. We could totally just drive up to the park–something that is pretty rare for these northern parks!
When we roll up to a national park, our first move is usually to find a ranger and ask them all about the “must sees”. We found out that Denali has a special breed of ranger – one that is more interested in getting ear scratches than dishing out info on the park.
The sled dogs of Denali are pretty amazing. In order to prep for the dogs, we listened to both The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London. It was very rewarding to see these hard working dogs in real life.
They took the dogs on a little run to show us how they train in the summer and fall. They used this awesome mountain cart that is essentially a beefed up go cart without a motor. It was hilarious watching them harness up the dogs. These pups were SO PUMPED to get out and work.
Madison said that this girl is NOT excited enough to be holding the cutest baby sled dogs! She has the best job ever, I don’t understand the long face!
That night we stayed just outside of the park. The moon rise was absolutely moving.
The next day we loaded our bikes and gear on the bus to get a little backcountry time along the park road. They don’t let you drive your vehicle all the way down the 92 miles of dirt road. Instead, they run busses that can drop you off at different sections along the way. We wanted to ride our bikes on the road, but we weren’t up to ride all 92 miles of it!
The views on the drive were spectacular. The bus ride in was a real treat. As we drove toward the mountain, I couldn’t help but be excited. We were lucky enough to visit the park of one of the few clear days of the summer. Our bus driver said that it was the best day of the whole season.
We saw all kinds of wild life on the way in – bears and caribou literally all over the place – and then this ugly mix of a creature. It was fun to spot something and then yell “STOP” so the bus driver would pull over for a better look.
We took the bus about 65 miles into the park. It was crazy unloading the bikes and our bags and watching the bus drive away. It felt good to be out there on our own!
We ditched our bikes just off the side of the road under some bushes out of sight, and started to hike into the back country. You have to set up your camp out of view from the road. We picked a creek to follow up and around the bend.
After setting up camp, we decided to go for a hike up the hill to get a better view of the mountain. We knew that this was probably our night to see the top – since the next day was forecasted to be cloudy with chance of showers.
We hung out for a couple of hours just watching clouds pass over the mountain. We talked and planned future adventures. It was an awesome, relaxing evening waiting on the mountain.
Here is my summit picture.
The mountain would change colors as the sun went down. It went from white to yellow, to gold, and then to purple. When the sun finally set, we walked back grateful for the chance to see the summit.
There were a million blueberries up the hill from where we camped. We went up and picked a bunch that morning and had them in our oatmeal. It was delish! We pre-made our bags of oatmeal instead of using the little store-bought pouches that Madison calls, “sugary bags of worthlessness”. Our breakfast contained quick oats, dried fruit, cinnamon, almond slices, chia seeds and superfood powder from Better Body Foods.
After our blueberry feast, we jumped on our bikes. Keep in mind, we had our huge backpacks with all of our gear! We set off to ride 2 miles to the visitor center to leave our bags. From there, we would ride another 20 miles to Wonder Lake.
The ride was spectacular. It really was one of the most beautiful rides I’ve been on. We had a good time stopping at the views and checking out wildlife.
We saw a few caribou along the way, and that was about it. We were worried we were going to see another bear, but none of them showed up along the road.
One of our “Denali Dreams” was to see some sheep! And luckily – the dream came true! They were WAY off in the distance up the mountain side, but we saw them! They tend to hang out up at the rocky tops of the hills and mountains along the road. If I were able to choose to be an animal, I would choose to be one of these sheep. It’s so cool to me how they just run up those steep rocks.
The road back out of the park was long. 96 miles is a long way to ride on one of these busses! The bus was packed and everyone was tired after long adventures in the backcountry. Even though we were tired and ‘uncomfortable’, I had a moment on the bus. I have isolated this feeling before, and have pinned it as one of my favorites. It always comes to me as I return from an epic adventure. Knowing everyone is safe, having experienced a bit of struggle, but we were able to overcome – it’s quite euphoric. I really don’t know if it gets much better than that. If only you didn’t have to clean, sort, and store all of the gear once you get home and you’re dog tired, right?!