(Chuck) We departed Fairbanks on the 14 of June and arrived at Denali the same day. Not long after leaving Fairbanks we were able to catch glimpses of the biggest mountain in North America. We are experiencing a very unusual weather pattern which has provided us with great viewing opportunities. For more than four days in a row the mountain has been visible in the blue skyline. All of the bus drivers and local people have remarked that this is such an unusual event. A very high percentage of people who travel to see this mountain have never experienced it because it is often shrouded in rain and mist. We have once again been blessed.
We took the bus ride to Wonder Lake on the second day. We were greeted by Grizzly Bear, Dall Sheep, Moose, Caribou, Ptarmigan, Red Fox and other smaller critters. It is the best way to view the mountain, however is also an 85 mile, gravel road, school bus ride from the visitors center. We left at 5:30 am and returned to camp about 4:30 in the afternoon. Those who could secure a spot and camp at Teklanika (we were unable to reserve a spot) had a much shorter day on the bus.
(Jan) Our first night in Denali was spent in an overflow blacktop area and the next five days at Riley Creek Campground. It’s a beautiful place and it is also home to a mama moose and her calf. On the day we moved in, they were munching on the tender spring trees and creating a ‘moose jam.’ The Park Ranger had foot and vehicle traffic at a stand still until mama moose decided to move on. They are very dedicated to the wildlife in this park! Denali is home to 300 to 350 Grizzly Bears, 2500 Dall Sheep, 2,000 Caribou and 2,000 Moose, 60-100 adult wolves along with a number of fox and lynx.
Denali National Park and Wilderness came about because of the pioneering interest Charles Sheldon had in the Dall Sheep in this area. In 1917 2,000 acres containing Mt. McKinley, U.S. and North America’s highest point, became McKinley National Park. The locals have always called it by it’s Athabascan name which means ‘the high one’. In 1980 the park was enlarged to 6,000 acres and was renamed Denali National Park and Wilderness. Glaciers cover 16 % of the Park’s acres. At least 5 glaciers on the mountain are 20 and 30 miles long. The Ruth glacier is 3,800 feet thick. Permafrost-permanently frozen ground covers much of the park. “The active layer (the layer that freezes and thaws seasonally) can be from 1 inch to 10 feet thick. The permafrost layer below the active layer has been measured to be between 30 and 100 feet deep depending on the location of measurement in the park.” It’s a fascinating place!
(Chuck) If there is a downside, it is the abundant supply of mosquitoes that seem to battle with us each time we venture outdoors. It seems that a wet fall and early snow prevented the “proper freeze up” to contain these pesky critters.
The photos I took in North Pole, which is near Fairbanks, should have warned us of what was to come. The front of this white car appeared to have been carpeted. Closer inspection revealed that it was covered with mosquito bodies.
There is a story of two mosquitos that entered a tent and were discussing the options of what to do with the two men who were sleeping inside. One mosquito said to the other. “We better eat them here, because if we drag them outside, the big ones will take them away from us.” The camp store has no repellant or netting left and they report that the shelves are bare from Fairbanks to Homer. We shall see about that as we hope to resupply in Anchorage soon.