Our Alaska Trip Part XIXa Bucket List

This entry is part 21 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 9, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 11 Comments

This is the 19th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

 Majestic Mt. McKinley, North America's Highest

Majestic Mt. McKinley, North America’s Highest

On 99 days out of the hundred of summer in Denali National Park, Mt. McKinley – highest peak in North America – is either totally or partially obscured by clouds.  We have talked to many people who saw only the base or part of the grand mountain.

Thursday, the day our caravan boarded a bus for Denali, IT WAS THE ONE PERCENT!  During our 13 hours on the bus, every glimpse of the Alaskan Range in Denali provided a sparkling view of these snow-covered giants.

If you saw the movie “The Bucket List” you know it means doing the things you wanted to do in life before you kick the bucket.  I didn’t know I had a bucket list until yesterday.

We saw, from top, Arctic ground squirrel, moose, trumpeter swan, wolf, Mt. McKinley, Dall sheep and grizzly bear -- plus, eagles, harriers, hikers, bikers, muskrat, caribou, ducks, ptarmigan, gulls and probably more

We saw, clockwise from top, dall sheep, a mama moose with her calf, a ptarmigan, a wolf, a trumpeter swan and grizzly bears, plus  Arctic ground squirrels, eagles, harriers, hikers, bikers, muskrat, caribou, ducks, gulls and probably more .. and, then, there was a mountain or two.

Today I’m heading for a whitewater-rafting trip, so I’ll try to keep this short.

I’ve got to start out by saying, “I’m stoked” with the comments from the “Audience Participation” article [See Part XVIII].  The diversity of thought is, I’m sure, much appreciated by those thinking of traveling here.  On our caravan, we have mostly motorhomes, two 5th wheels, a Winnebago View and a Citation in what I would call the Class A in-between class, a Class B and one travel trailer (ours).  No one seems to think his/her rig isn’t appropriate for the difficult trip.

Yesterday we woke up to having no water service in the campground.  One day one of our campgrounds had a power outage; another time, it was the entire town.  Most of us just say, “Well, that’s Alaska.”  As RVers we try to be ready for anything the road throws at us, so I think that the glitches along our path make it an experience.

It’s no big thing, according to group member Bill Kern and wife Marilyn, who made this same trip10 years ago.  “The infrastructure is much better today,” he said.  There is far less gravel and far less construction along the way.  Ten years ago at this same RV park by Denali, there was no communication.  No phones and of course no internet.  Today, everyone camping here can get on the park’s WiFi (except me).  Bill said they are pleasantly surprised by the differences.

Because of the harsh winter conditions, I don’t know if this land will ever lose its sense of adventure.  Personally I’m thankful for the improvements; thankful for the opportunity to rough it.

Getting back to yesterday’s Denali visit, the word “spectacular” probably comes closest to summing it up.  Larry, our bus driver, reminded us often that he has rarely if ever seen it like that in eight years.  A ranger at the visitors center in the park agreed it was a 1 percent day for the summer, although there are a few more clear days in winter.

This is a good time to mention that the density of visitors to Denali is sparse.  Personal vehicles are only allowed to go in 15 miles.  Most shuttle buses go about 32, and very few do what we did, going all the way to Denali Backcountry Lodge at the end of the road 92 miles from the entrance.  We went 184 miles and could only lose interest for a few minutes before something else drew our undivided attention.

We were blessed with perfect weather conditions and the variety of wildlife that came to see us yesterday.  We hope you get the same views, but thankfully the powers above knew we were doing this blog and wanted you to have an idea of all there is to see here.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.


11 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XIX Bucket List”

▪.  Jerry X Shea on July 9th, 2010 4:27 pm  
Talk about “luck.” What a great treat you guys had. Spent a week there and saw nothing by rain. When we took the bus ride the driver said ” Mt. McKinley is over there.” So I took a picture “over there” of what we could not see.

▪.  Sid Burklund on July 9th, 2010 5:36 pm  
I am glad to hear you had such a great day visiting the park! Been there twice and it rained both times but that’s OK as we live in Washington State and our mountains are many and beautiful.
 A comment about the bus ride:  on our last trip we decided to take the bus into the park for wildlife viewing. To our dismay and before the bus left, I concluded that there wasn’t enough leg room for me. I have arthritis in both legs and am 6′4″ and would not have made 10 miles let alone the trip you took. I am happy for you but just a warning to those that have health issues, the bus won’t turn around for you.
I enjoy your posts and have the time of your lives.

▪.  Margie on July 9th, 2010 6:35 pm  
I’ve lived in Alaska for 7 years now and have been to Denali many times (including just a couple of weeks ago) and I have NEVER seen the mountain look like that. I’m happy you guys were so fortunate!!! We definitely get crystal clear days like today, but being in Anchorage, even when Denali is out in all its glory as it was this morning, it is still almost 250 miles away and doesn’t compare to what you guys got to see. Good for you!!!

▪.  susan on July 9th, 2010 8:03 pm  
Good for you! What a day you had…so glad you could see the mountain so clearly.
What memories!

▪.  jim hammack on July 9th, 2010 8:53 pm  
We went on a cruse 3 years ago and took the land tour to Denali. We got glimpses of the mountain, saw lots of wildlife. was told by the driver what a good day we had with all the wildlife and the view of Denali. We had a wolf walk down the road toward us then walked out into the brush. the driver killed the engine on the bus as soon as the wolf was spotted. saw lots of sheep, bear, moose, and several varieties of birds.
this past sept, we took another cruise with land tour to Alaska. took a shorter trip into Denali. we went about a mile beyond the Bradied River and listened to a native describe life in Alaska. we were then driven back to the lodge (not the one in the park). the highlight of that tour was someone spotting a wolf that turned out to be a dog tied to the bumper of a motorhome at the visitors center. the mountain was not out that day.
the first tour was all day. the second lasted at most 4 hrs. the driver also pointed out how lucky we were to have the native elder describe life in his village. i didn’t feel the same; especially after being on a better tour a couple years earlier. my point is that they all hype their tour. sometimes it is really a good tour. there is also more than one guided tour into the park: stay away from the natural history tour…it is a real bust. the wilderness tour is a good one. we saw very little wildlife on the natural history tour. those that took the wilderness tour, the same day, saw about what we had seen on it a couple of years earlier. the animals cooperated on the wilderness tour but were apparently on strike on the natural history tour.
we did get some very clear views of Denali from the train to Anchorage the next day though. i mean very clear.

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on July 10th, 2010 8:03 am  
Congratulations on seeing the mountain. The brochures say you are more likely to see a grizzly bear than the mountain. We didn’t see the mountain, but we did get some great pictures of a mother grizzly and her young ones. We met some people on the bus who saw the mountain the day before and they exchanged some pictures of it with us.
I agree with the comments about the bus ride. If you aren’t up to a long and torturous ride, don’t try it. There is no turning back and it can be a miserable day. The hours going out will be broken by seeing the sights, but coming back will be several hours of pure misery.

▪.  Thomas Pallone on July 10th, 2010 9:08 am  
I have been enthralled reading about your Alaskan adventure. While I am a modest 5th wheeler in the lower forty-eight, I have not attempted anything quite so edgy as this. Thank you and again, thank you for giving all of us a rare glimpse into such a journey and allowing some vicarious thrills along the way! This has really inspired me to move out into even more of the country. The picture of Mt. McKinley is dazzling!

▪.  JimHutt on July 10th, 2010 11:17 am  
Thanks for all the great dialog and pictures. We are enjoying your trip even though we are not there. Hope to make the trip next year.
I copied and pasted the picture of Mt. McKinley to an 8X10 print, it is beautiful.
Looking forward to reading and seeing more of the wonder sites as you folks continue your journey. Thanks again for taking the time to share!

▪.  Julian Cane on July 10th, 2010 4:58 pm  
Just got back from 6 weeks in AB, BC, YK and Alaska. One huge and big place. Disappointed in Denali……Yosemite is better. If going I would forget THE TOP OF WORLD HIGHWAY as the day I took it, it started to drizzle, then rain then hail and more hail to the point we had to come to a complete stop. The road is dirt and the rain turned it into a sea of mud and was tough to navigate. The next day we heard a Class A went off the road but fortunately on the high side. Chicken was a huge disappointment. Fuel got to $6/gal and was sparse in some places. The Canadian border folks are tough and it took some of them 30 minutes to clear me.
Need more info???????? give a holler

▪.  Phil S on July 12th, 2010 12:36 am  
The 9th was indeed a great day here in Denali. I work for the National Park Service here at Denali National Park and it’s always great to hear when visitors have a great visit. The 9th is when my wife and I traveled from our home here in Denali to Wasilla, and picked up our very first travel trailer! We enjoyed the view of Denali all the way home! I sure have enjoyed reading about your travels and looking forward to continued reading about your wonderful journey!

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on July 17th, 2010 4:09 pm  
Where we live off the North Birchwood exit in Chugiak, we get to see Denali hundreds of times during the year, and I have to say the most beautiful she is has to be on a gray winter’s day on New Years. She never fails to show us her pink and orange glowing beauty on that day. We also get to see her all the time from the end of our driveway. Where we live is one of the few places where you can see her almost year round. So glad you got to see her.
Here’s what she looks like on New Years every year: http://www.alaskainmydreams.com/images/denalipic.jpg

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