I used to think Eden would be more like the Caribbean or a tropical island somewhere. I thought it surely lush with tropical plants having gigantic leaves and palm fronds and lipid pools of aqua colored water. The only problem with that thought is you never see the larger overall image of that place because of the thick vegetation. Now, take a place like Denali National Park…wow..now that is what I believe Eden looked like. In fact, these days I watch Alaskan reality shows with an inclusive sense of humor and the other night an Alaskan gentleman closed out the show by stating that Alaska is where God goes to vacation. Of course the show was being filed in the winter and I’m not sure if or why anyone would vacation there in the winter….but I definitely think Eden could be located in Alaska.
We took another “coach” to the Princess Denali Lodge. I need to premise this post by saying that our group of 27 with our fearless leader, Bruce, have just enjoyed 3 extremely sublime days at the McKinley lodge in the sunshine while staring lovingly into that rock, Denali. We danced, laughed, sang, made s’mores, listened to music, hiked, snapped countless photos, and ate great food. We were feeling very happy and satisfied!
During our coach ride and our approach to the Denali Lodge, life for us changed. It was now cloudy, misty, and cold! Bruce did a great job narrating the terrain we were passing by and we stopped to take some amazing photographs of lakes, mountains, our first glacier (photo #4) and even an abandoned igloo alongside the highway.
When we arrived at the lodge, the weather was dreary! As we walked through the lodge the other tourists who were swapping out lodges with us looked so unhappy. Upon questioning a staff member as to why; we were informed it was because their previous 3 days at the lodge had been filled with cold and clouds and the dreaded rain. Oh no….was this to be our fate as well? It was as if someone turned the lights out at our party. We all stumbled around for our bearings and grabbed a bite to eat. We dug our warmer sweaters and pants out of our suitcases and wandered around the lodge. Some of us even wished we could go back to McKinley!
Shortly after lunch and hiking, the sunshine started to emerge! By dinnertime our McKinley weather had arrived at Denali! That evening we enjoyed a theater production of the Music of Denali in which my mother was asked to be a participating character named Fanny. We all had a great time laughing and singing along! Throughout the remainder of the trip, my mother would continue to be comically referred to as Fanny by others in our group.
The next morning we met bright and early for our tour of Denali National Park and once again the bets were on whether or not I would be moved to tears. This time we were on an old school bus, but it wasn’t any ordinary school bus. This one was equipped with an expert tour guide to show us the land. Denali National Park doesn’t allow vehicles to drive through it with two exceptions. Guided tour buses and shuttle buses who will take hikers in and out of various areas of the park. Denali National Park consists of SIX MILLION acres of land..thankfully there are shuttles. We were instructed on the spotting of wild animals and told to call them out so we can collectively stop and view them all! Our tour bus driver even came equipped with a fabulous hat-cam to show us animals on bus monitors that looked like specks to us. The skies were blue and the sun was blaring…great viewing conditions for animals but for me that would not be the highlight of my day! We did get to see moose, caribou, dall sheep, golden bears, and more caribou!
There was even a spotting of the elusive hubby showing off his antlers! Along with the amazing animals, there are these very cool mudflats that I imagine have much more water in them during a rainy period. I just find the winding ribbons of water to be fascinating!
For me the landscape was amazing. There is a diversity of land there. Our bus tour went up considerably in elevation the farther into Denali National Park we went. The trees and vegetation at the park entrance is lush and tall and the moose can easily hide in it. However, as we approached the 60 mile mark into the park, the vegetation was now less than a foot tall and most of the flowers were at ground level. This is because at the higher altitudes there, the growing season becomes extremely shortened and therefore plants become more efficient in their reproductive cycles. Our bus came to a stop at mile 67 and it was our last stop before heading back out. We all stepped out into the tundra to the most breathtaking views!
But the most amazing view of all was my mountain! Day two and we got the most spectacular view of Denali ever! There was nary a cloud around it!! According to our tour guide, our group was now part of the 10% club because we have had clear days on both sides of the mountain! Such a gorgeous day! Here is my mountain….DENALI!
On our way back, and forgive the photo that was taken through the front window of the bus, we were greeted by caribou in the roadway. Thankfully they veered off so we could continue on our way. In Denali National Park…animals always have the right of way…I think they know it too!
After our exhausting day in the National Park it was time for Happy Hour at the lodge. We would be having to repack for our train ride to Whittier bright and early in the morning. While looking over the Nenana river winding around our lodge, we noticed that one of the 3 rafts riding the rapids had tipped over. It was a very intense few minutes as all we could do was watch them try to recover. There were seagulls-a-plenty and they were rather bawdy too!
One of the servers shared a story with us from a few years ago. Across the Nenana river is a hiking trail and there was a hiker walking along the river. The people on the outside patio of the restaurant noticed a bear also on the trail a few hundred yards behind the hiker. They yelled to the hiker but because of the rushing water sound and the distance they were unable to get the attention of the hiker. Thinking they are surely going to witness something horrific, they were happily surprised when the bear lost interest and turned around. Whew!
The view from the resort was amazing…but it’s time to head to the ship!