Thursday, July 10, 2008

Alaska - Part 1 - Denali National Park

June 27th - finally it was time to leave for our much awaited trip to Alaska. We had booked the flights way back in February and I had spent the last month or so planning out the other stays/campsites etc.

Some last minute scrambling, packing etc. and we were on our way. We took the United flight to Anchorage where we were to sync up with a couple of our friends. Just before landing, around 11.30 at night we looked outside the window - all we could see was mountain after mountain covered with snow. And we could see it, it being summer and Alaska being close to North Pole it is hardly dark here during the summer days. We saw the view under and were all spruced up for the trip.

View from the plane

The first section of the trip (3 days) was a visit to Denali National Park. Denali is a 4 hour drive from Anchorage. The first night we drove up there and stayed outside. The drive itself was full of vast panoramic vistas, braided rivers and huge mountains. The one thing missing was blue skies - it was cloudy for the most part that day.

View along the drive upto Denali National Park

The next couple of days we planned on camping inside the park at Wonder Lake campground. Our friends who had camped in Denali before told us that if there is one place in the world you want to camp at it is Wonder Lake. This was going to be there first time at the Wonder Lake campsite too - earlier they had camped at a different location. So the following morning at 6.30 we were all packed and on the camper bus that was to take us inside the park.

It is a 6 hour bus ride from the entrance of the park to Wonder Lake (the last point where the bus goes). And no private verhicles are around inside the park after the first few miles. As we rode deeper into the park, the views became vaster and huger. It was definitely something like I had never seen before.

If you look closely, you can see the Denali peak in the background in the above picture

As we drove on, we got our first view of the peak from Stony Dome - our bus driver told us we were lucky. Being hidden in clouds for the most part, Denali or Mt. McKinley makes an appearance only once in 2-3 days for a really short time.

Denali is the highest mountain in US. At 21,000 or something feet, it is much lower than Mt. Everest (29,000 or something ft. ) but apparently is very shy and a bigger challenge for mountaineers because of its closeness to the North Pole. The elements are much harsher here. We got a much better view of the peak on the day we were travelling out of the park a couple of days later since it was a clearer day.

View of the peak on a clearer day

The 2 days in Denali were spent camping, hiking around and viewing wildlife of which there was plenty. I will make a separate post on the wildlife and wildflowers we came across. It rained both nights but our tents served us well as we had rain flys to cover the tents. The sound of the rain and hail(one night) hitting the top of the tent was a bit unnerving, but when you have tired limbs its relatively easy to fall asleep. Plus our sleeping bags were adequate and kept us warm. The one thing thing that did bother us were all the mosquitoes at Wonder Lake. Believe me when I say there were loads of them because being from India I am used to mosquitoes but this was different. We had to rub DEET and wear head nets to ward them off.

But despite the mosquitoes and the rain, all in all it was a nice camping trip inside Denali. Staying inside the park allowed us more time to explore more of the park. Alaska is wilderness at its best, and camping deep inside Denali provided the perfect remote wilderness experience.

The park was dotted with many such ponds


Cuckoo said...

Hi Pooja,

After a long break you have posted something. Nice description & pictures. Have linked you on BB.


Mridula said...

Lovely pictures, have to go there one day!

maduraiveeran said...

awesome pictures!

Pooja Aggarwal said...

Cuckoo: I plan to be more regular :-)

Mridula: You I must go to Ladakh some day

Maduraiveeran: Thanks!