On Sunday we started our three day trip into Denali National Park with the goal to do some hikes around the park and of course see Mount McKinley. With an altitude of 6194 m McKinley is the highest mountain in North-America and is called Denali by the Indians. Statistically the mountain peaks out behind the clouds every three days during summer, so our chances weren’t too bad to get a good view of McKinley’s peaks.
Entering the park is only possible by using a bus-shuttle-system that drives the visitors around and the campers to the different campgrounds. We chose Wonder Lake campground which is the farthest from the park entrance. Due to the gravel roads and the wildlife spotting stops it takes about 5 bus hours to travel the 85 miles.
Before starting the journey Andy tried different hats in the shop of the Wilderness Access Center:
In the end he decided neither for the “Ranger” nor the “Indiana Jones”-version, but to stick with his Fjällräven mosquito hat. That was a wise decision, as you will see later 🙂
On the way to Wonder Lake we passed a variety of amazing sceneries:
Unfortunately the weather forecast wasn’t that good and Mount McKinley didn’t show up the first day. At the campground we pitched our tent in his direction and hoped for a glimpse of the peaks on the next day.
The evening entertainment consisted of Ranger Andy (coincidentally that was the rangers name too) telling funny and interesting stories about a Park Rangers life.
The next morning the view from our tent didn’t show Denali. Due to nearby wildfires and a changed wind direction the view was even worse than the day before.
To not make bears associate park visitors with food, all food and even products like tooth paste had to be stored in a bear safe storage container.
After a strengthening breakfast we set out for the McKinley Bar trail which led to the McKinley river at the foot of Denali.
The trail starts near Wonder Lake, crosses tundra terrain, goes through brush and woods and in the end one arrives at the McKinley river. From there one should in principal have a wonderful view of the mountains.
We were well equipped with bear bells, bear spray and the knowledge how to react, when a bear appears. We also used Deet, a strong mosquito repellent and mosquito hats.
We took some food and planned to have a snack down at the river. A delicious “Brotzeit” is often one of the nicest parts of hiking. That was the plan…
Back on the campground there were also mosquitos, but in the brushy tundra we were each surrounded by dozens of them. Once we entered the woods it was really getting insane! Hundreds of these little blood thirsty vampires were everywhere and even biting through our gloves. At least at that point we did not anymore worry about the bears 🙂
We quickly hiked to the river, took some pictures of invisible Mount McKinley and left without having a Brotzeit 🙁
One of our next hikes took us to a ridge, where the mosquito situation luckily improved.
From his perspective that mosquito was on the wrong side of our tent…
The next morning we got up at 5.30 am and left our warm and cozy sleeping bags to a 5C chilly morning. It was just in time to see the mountains in the distance and this time we could even spot Denali peaking out of the clouds!
Apart from the mosquitos we had some great days at the Denali National Park: the hikes, the wildlife, the views and the cozy nights in the tent made it a great experience.
Now however we are looking forward to some soap and a nice and warm shower!