31 August 2015, Monday
It was less then 10 miles to the entrance of Denali National Park, so we had time to do some leisurely sight seeing along the way. We stopped a couple of times for those who wanted to take a short hike – others took an early morning nap. You will notice there are no photos from any hikes in this post – at least not from me. Lou did go on a hike, and he just gave me his photos, so check out the link to the next post.
All aboard The Magic Bus:
We watched the the whitewater rafting adventure prepare the rafts and head down river. There has to be an easier way to make a living.
We made it – the official entrance to Denali National Park! Now we had another bus to catch – the one that would take us to the North Face Lodge. We caught this bus at the Alaska RR station.
Here is our next bus. We are going to the North Face Lodge for the next five nights. This is the premier lodge in Denali NP and only one of two full service lodges located within the park. You need to take a 90 mile bus ride, mostly on a dirt road, to get to the lodge. For those not familiar with Denali NP, there is only one road in, and you can’t go by car. You will take either a green bus operated by the Park Service, or one of the special lodge busses. Off we go!
At about Mile 15, a park ranger hops onboard the bus and gives us an enthusiastic welcome. She goes over a few rules and regulations but mostly just wants us to enjoy the park. She also gave a weather update … earlier in the morning, there was concern about keeping the busses running, but fortunately the snow stopped and she predicted we would be able to make it to our lodge.
Seeing snow as we drove along the park road was amazing. Lou had visited in the fall before, but they didn’t have snow. The photos he took showed the rich, deep fall colors. The snowy views are different, but still awesomel.
The blustery weather did impact our bus adventure, as we only made very short stops at the visitor centers, and we skipped the picnic supper that is part of the usual North Face arrival day. But, the snow-scaped vistas were beautiful and a lovely way to experience Denali NP in the snow. The sun popped out now and then, as did the wildlife..
A Willow Ptarmigan, the Alaska State Bird. They are well-camouflaged. I’m not sure I even saw there were three of them until I was reviewing the photos.
The scenery didn’t stop …
And then we saw our first bear of the trip – a large grizzly bear foraging in the snow covered grass for food:
The scenery changed as we came down the grade into the area near Eielson Visitor Center.
We made a very short stop at Eielson Visitor Center, and it started to snow again. We would make it back for a longer visit later in the week. Here is Lou, comparing notes with Laurie, one of our travel mates. Laurie is also from Maine, and is a talented photographer.
Clouds cleared briefly after we left the Eielson Visitor Center, and the mountain was visible for a short time. We also saw less snow on the tundra as we got closer to our destination for the evening – we will be back in the Wonder Lake area for more photography during the week. It was amazing to see no snow at all at the Lodge.
It was 7:15pm by the time we reached the North Face Lodge. Six hours on the bus, with a few short breaks to stretch our legs. Len checked us in, and after a quick break, we went to the main area where we had dinner.
I normally wouldn’t include so many photos in a single post … but this is representative of our long long travel day. If you were mesmerized by the beauty of Denali as you scrolled down the page, then you will enjoy (or maybe already have enjoyed) a trip to Denali National Park.
If you skipped to the end, moaning “Oh my Lord, when will this stop?”, then you might not be a candidate for touring Denali National Park. Or, it could just be a reflection on my choice of photos 🤣
Click HERE to check out Lou’s morning hike.