The first time I visited Denali Park I hated it.
It was July. I drove down the Parks Highway from Fairbanks with a friend during a three day vacation. We were on a mission to see the mountain.
(This is one of two pictures I took that weekend. . . I know, I should become a professional photographer)
I don’t actually remember whether or not the mountain came out of the clouds while we were there. All I really remember about the trip are stiff legs from sitting in the car all day and being completely overwhelmed by people every single place we went. Our first stop was “the canyon”- a sea of shops and tourists (not that I can “tourist” shame as I am the dorkiest traveler you have ever met). There had to be at least 100 stores crammed into that narrow strip and hundreds upon hundreds of people.
(This is the second and final picture I took that weekend)
Next it was on to the visitor center in Denali Park where a similar crowd of people running around in every direction greeted us.
We opted to skip the bus ride into the park, since it sounded unbearably long, but instead drove out to Savage River where we went for a day hike, regularly jumping to the side to avoid other hikers following the canyon in a single file line. Ahh wilderness.
Then is was on to Talkeetna where we were greeted by a similar scene. We spent more time in our car than out of it, but a few months in the Arctic had turned me into a wilderness snob and in my mind I had already written the place off as a crowded tourist trap and had little desire to spend any more time there.
(just a random comic because I love Chad Carpenter)
I drove by the park occasionally over the coming years. I once dared stop in the canyon for an entire 10 minutes on my way from Anchorage back to Fairbanks to grab a burrito. A few other times I drove by in the winter and saw all of the shops boarded up and the whole area looking sad and ghostly.
It was silly to give up on the park after never having actually seen any of it beyond the pavement and, luckily, this fall I found myself signing up to move there for a job. I figured I’d have a better chance of liking it during the winter anyway.
It’s a good thing I had the opportunity to give it a second chance because it turns out it is a pretty spectacular place with incredible history. Since October I have been rambling around it (mostly by dog team for work) and, once you get out there, it is quite nice and maybe even a little wild.
(My team running by Thorofare Ridge with Denali in the background)
I had great ambitions to keep this blog going through the whole season but we were out in the field so much that I have fallen behind. I am in civilization until Iditarod so I’ll do my best to catch up! Stay tuned to read about moose encounters, swimming in knee deep overflow in January, elusive wolf kills and some wonderful sled dogs. You can follow my instagram site to see more pictures here.
(Little Vista running in team for the first time and Koven showing her the ropes)