Friday, July 15, 2011

We Toss the Denali Dice

Mt. McKinley, aka Denali (an Athabascan word meaning "The Great One"), is elusive. Because it makes its own weather (the ice and snow on the slopes sublimates to clouds that often cover the peak), only 30% of park visitors see even a part of it -- and only 10% see the entire mountain.

We stopped in the Wilderness Center yesterday to get tickets for the 8-hour skoolie bus trip through Denali (autos are not allowed after the first 12 miles). Our weather choices for the forecastable future were: rain in the afternoon OR rain OR cloudy with a chance of rain, none of which would let us see Denali. We just decided to go today and hope for the best.

It did not start out well. We had signed up for the 9:00 A.M. bus, and awoke to showers and overcast skies. When we boarded the bus, the driver told us the dreary weather might be good for animal sightings, but we would probably not see Denali.

As unlikely as it was, the weather kept getting better and better as we drove further into Denali. Did we best the odds and actually see The Great One?

You bet we did!
Just when we got into viewing range for Denali, the clouds broke and we got an almost unobstructed view!

We were still several miles from the end of the trip, and as we continued the clouds started to form around the mountain. Eventually, the peak was almost invisible:
We were so glad we got to see the mountain, but even without that, the scenery was amazing:
The beautiful scenery kept us from being alarmed at the road, which was always unpaved, and sometimes unpaved and close to the edge of a non-guard-railed drop to our death:
Of the five mega mammals that can be seen along the drive, we saw four: moose, caribou, bear, and Dall Sheep. The only one we missed was the wolf (but we did see a fox which was an added bonus):
John's comment was, "I'm horny!"
We also made some new friends on the bus: Rose and Donna, who have been backpacking in Denali, but who must soon return to work (retirement will be here before you know it!). Great meeting you, and we'll see you down the road!


Diana said...

WOW!!!!! Great, great shots of the Great One. You guys are really lucky (and talented photographers, of course).

Sharon Del Rosario said...

Welcome to the 10% club! Your pictures are far, far better than mine. It was great to revisit The Great One with you.

Judy and Luke Rinehimer said...

We only made it to the 30% club. Glad you had a great view and captured the proof.

The Good Luck Duck said...

You won the lottery! Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

OK. so you reached "Your Peak". Beautiful indeedy....We did the antlers also. but John. i sure don't wanna be in front of you with Those things on especially if you happen to bend forward......
Enjoyed your Blog Immensly and it sure brought back The Memory of AK to me...
Enjoy your Beautiful adventure...BirdladyD

Dennis & Carol said...

Real nice pics of Denali,great job. See ya in the lower..Dennis &