We sighted a black bear not long after we crossed the border into Alaska. We were glad to get our unlimited Verizon service back, but had to switch our brains back to miles vs kilometers and US cash.
After a nice stay in Tok we headed for Fairbanks. The weather was fantastic and we were optimistic that we would be seeing Mt. Denali in all its glory: The weather is such that the mountain is visible only around 40% of the time so we would be one of the lucky few.
We kept passing sweeping, endless mountain ranges, pressing themselves against bountiful skies.
We stayed at the Wedgewood Resort in Fairbanks to give ourselves a scheduled break from the confines of BigB. They had a beautiful wildlife preserve adjacent to the resort – it’s a nice stroll through the boreal forest to a small lake where you maybe run into another person; it was a place of solitude with a chance for tree bathing.
We arrived at the Denali RV Park and Motel and headed out to the National Park the next morning to go for a hike along the Savage River. We stopped briefly at the visitor center on the way; we saw a moose and were warned about said moose by a ranger as she had a calf and had been getting aggressive. Otherwise we navigated moose spoor that was prolific pretty much everywhere we went including the RV park.
On our hike along the river we had the luck to spot Dall Sheep; one large male was sitting there along the ridge like a sphinx with a full set of curved horns on full display. They were too far away for a photograph – even a high powered professional lens would have found the subject challenging to shoot. We settled for what we could see through the binoculars and watched as several more came over the ridge.
The hike along the river was exhilarating and there was still snow to navigate even though the weather was now in the sixties with barely a cloud in the sky. The hike skirts the edge of the river and through portions of tundra with the Alaska range providing a dramatic backdrop. I stopped on one of the upper trails to take it all in even though I really couldn’t; these dimensional spaces and experiences fill up too many senses – I settle for contemplating their existence and the associated memories.
You can take the bus through the park but due to landslides the trip is truncated – we opted for the drive to and from the trailhead instead – you can’t go any further into the park from Savage River without getting a ticket at the bus depot near the visitor center. We were happy with our sojourn as it was and were able to spot wildlife on our way back to the visitor center.
The wind blew heavily during the night and we woke without a cloud in the sky; this meant we were in luck to see the mountain itself. We headed for the Denali South Viewpoint and about an hour into the drive we turned a corner and there it was – unmistakable, stately, towering above the vast tundra, subverting the surrounding peaks – the most majestic of the North American peaks.
We were blessed to drive past the range and different variations of the mountain. We arrived at Denali South Viewpoint and discovered many tourists had the same idea – though it wasn’t overly crowded. The view was unbeatable and a short hike revealed an even better picture-perfect view. Through the telescopes we could view the peak and the massive glacier running through the range.
The smell of spring permeated the surrounding forest, the warm breeze enveloped us and the view was beyond the imagination.