September 25, 2022

Our Vacation to Denali, Alaska


Our Vacation to Denali, Alaska
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for September 25, 2022

For the last few days of our Alaska vacation, we traveled up to Denali, Alaska.  Denali is the name of the tallest mountain in North America, but it's also the name of the state park and national park where that mountain is located.  It's a pretty remote part of the country, but has some of the beautiful landscapes I've ever seen in my entire life.

We were there over Labor Day weekend, but that's already Fall in Alaska so we were treated with the most beautiful colors all over the place.  It's like God kicked over a paint bucket and covered all the trees in orange, yellow, and red.  Which was nice of Him.

We wanted to explore the park in every way we could, so our first visit was via an ATV which we took turns driving.  It was a really fun adventure, but we didn't get to see a lot of critters during this visit because the dang things were so loud.  

It also didn't help that we brought about 20 other loud ATVs with us.  So we didn't get to see any animals while out there this trip, but we sure did have fun cruising through paths, streams, hills, and a variety of other terrain.  

We did get to stop and see some beautiful views of the park.  We also got to wear some really sexy helmets, but unfortunately didn't get to take them home with us.

The next day we woke up extra early to get onboard a bus for an 8 hour tour through Denali National Park.  We were very excited and hopeful to see moose, bears, and other critters.

We hadn't seen a moose yet on our trip, so we were excited to see this beauty shortly after we entered the park.  She was standing in a stream right next to the road eating leaves.  The bus driver thought there may be a baby nearby but we never saw it.  There's all sorts of warning signs around Denali about moose and not getting too close to them.  However I'm pretty sure she would have let me ride her had I stepped off the bus and approached her with a smile.  I have a knack with animals.

 Next we saw some caribou.  I think they're beautiful creatures, but it has to be annoying carrying around that big rack of horns all day.  I would also think it would be nearly impossible to do a somersault with one of those things.

About 100 years ago, there were around 20,000 caribou in Denali National Park, but now their numbers are closer to 1760.  I'm glad we had the chance to see some of them because they are very cool to watch.

We were most excited to see more bears and had the chance to see 4 or 5 grizzlies while driving through the various roads.  Most of them were quite a distance away and you had to squint to see them, but then we got lucky and stumbled across this guy.  He was hidden in the woods at first, but eventually he wandered closer and closer to us and soon walked right by our bus.  They seem like big, cuddly teddy bears, but the more I was around them the more I realized how terrifying it must be to have a face to face encounter with one of them.  They're just massive beasts with huge teeth and claws.

 The guide told us that there's about 350 Grizzlies in Denali National Park which I thought seemed like a lot of them until you realize the park covers about 6 million acres.  I guess we were lucky to see the 4 or 5 we did.  It's actually harder to see moose and bear in Alaska than I thought it would be, but that's mainly because the state is just so dang big.  The state of Alaska would cover approximately 20 percent of the United States if you could lift it up and drop it on top.  But that would kind of suck for the people who were still underneath it.

  Denali Park Road is 93 miles long, but unfortunately much of the road is closed currently due to a landslide.  We were only able to go out to Mile 43.  What we saw was absolutely beautiful, but I'd like to go back again some day and do the rest of the tour.  I've seen pictures of what Denali the mountain looks like as you get closer and it looks absolutely breathtaking.  

On our last day in Alaska, we hired a guide to take us for a hike through Denali National Park.  She was a really nice young lady who spends her summers here and then goes back to her regular job in Africa where she takes tourists on hikes to see lions and tigers and stuff.  Talk about leading a life full of adventure!

We spent 3 hours hiking into the woods near the visitors center and found some amazing bridges and trails near rivers and streams which were fun to explore.  I was a bit nervous about stumbling across a bear or moose, but the guide told us we'd be fine.  She had a bear horn and bear spray to help us if needed, but no encounters for us.

About the only wildlife we met was this little snowshoe hare who came out to say Hello.  These bunnies have big feet to help them navigate on snow and turn all white in the winter and brown in the summer to help keep them camouflaged from predators.  I tried to pet this little guy, but he wasn't having any of it.

 We saw plenty of salmon and other fish in the water in Talkeetna and Seward, but not so much in Denali.  For some reason they're not as prevalent in this part of the state, but it was still fun to wander around the water anyways.

Our group was a relatively small one.  Just our family and a couple of nice ladies who ran a travel agency and had just arrived in Denali.  We liked posing for pictures together.

It seems every which way you walked, you'd come across another beautiful scene.  I can see why people want to escape their regular lives in the city and move out here full time and live in the woods.  There's no way in heck I'd ever do that, but I can see the attraction for others.

Eventually we found this bridge and had the chance to watch the Alaska railroad carry a train overhead.  We were set to board this very train a couple hours later where we'd take an 8 hour journey from Denali to Anchorage to board a red-eye flight back to Minnesota.

The train ride gave us one final chance to see all the glorious beauty contained in Alaska.  I have no idea when or if I'll ever come back to Alaska, but am sure glad we had the chance to spend a week here.  It's an incredible place.

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