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Denali National Park-6 million acres of gorgeous. Part 1

June 26, 2010

Yes, that’s right folks, Denali National Park consists of 6 million acres of nothing but gorgeous.  Having a hard time visualizing just how big 6 million acres is?  How about nearly 9,500 square miles.  Does that help?  No?  Well,  picture the State of Massachusetts and know that Denali NP is bigger.  No lie.  I understand it to be about the size of New Hampshire.   Now that’s what you call a National Park!

Of course it is known for being home to the tallest mountain in North America.  Formerly known as Mt. McKinley, the mountain is now (or I should say again) called Denali, which is the original Athabascan name for it meaning “the high one”.  Denali stands 20,320 ft tall and has an 18,000 ft vertical relief,  which rivals that of the more famous mountains like Everest (not the elevation, but the vertical relief).  The Park is also known for its diverse wildlife.  There are over 1,500 plant species, 39 species of mammals, 167 bird species, and 10 of fish (no reptiles).  Suffice it to say, there is an awful lot to see and I haven’t even mentioned the Glacial Features or Geologic Formations, which are both beautiful and fascinating.  I think I could easily and happily spend a lifetime in the Park and still not come close to seeing it all.  To learn more, you can visit the official website,

Now on to share our 4 day glimpse into this great park.

Aaron, Misty, Mosely, and I left Anchorage last Sunday morning and arrived at the Riley Creek Campground about 5 hours later.  Fortunately the first real trip in Dora was pleasantly uneventful.  I’m becoming an excellent RV driver.  (cue music from the movie, Rain Man)  The Riley Creek Campground is located just inside the entrance to the Park and was our home for the first night.  After checking in and setting up our little spot which involved backing up all 36.5 feet of Dora, we explored the campground, took a quick hike with the dogs, fixed mac and cheese, salad, and brownies for dinner (we had all of Aaron’s favorites on this trip) and went to the Ranger talk on Shadow Cats otherwise known as Lynx.  Just lovely.  I’ve got to tell you, this is the first time I’ve “camped” in an RV and hands down, its got sleeping on the ground beat by a mile.

I slept most soundly and comfortably in my very own bed with memory foam topper,  flannel sheets, and down comforter and upon waking I turned on the furnace to chase away the morning chill.  While sitting comfortably on the padded dinette seat waiting for my coffee to brew, I faced the difficult decision to fix eggs, pancakes, cereal, fruit and yogurt, or oatmeal for breakfast.  I did mention we were camping, didn’t I?  Ha!  I’ll never look at my tent the same way again.

After breakfast, which I think ended up being peanut butter toast with bananas, coffee, and hot chocolate we packed up, stopped at the nearby Mercantile to dump our tanks and fill our fresh water tank, stopped in at the Visitor’s Center to have our National Parks Passports stamped, and headed up the Park Road…destination Teklanika Campground…mile 29.

I’ve realized as I’m typing this that I neglected to take pictures of either of our campsites.  My apologies.  I’ll try to remedy this next time Dora and I go “camping”.

The Park Road is 85 miles long and takes you from the Park Entrance out to Wonder Lake.  Private vehicles are allowed only to the Savage River which is at mile 15.  Beyond that point the road becomes gravel and you must have a campground pass to take your own vehicle further or be aboard one of the many Park Shuttle Buses.  Since we had a campground pass, we proceeded to the Teklanika River Campground which as I said is located at mile 29 and is the furthest campground from the Park entrance.  Once there, we chose our spot, backed in, and got set up for a 3 day stay.

I’ll end Part One here, but will entice you to stay tuned with the list of the animals we saw over the next couple of days and a few  photos from our hike along the Savage River whose geology is most intriguing.  It is quite complicated, so in brief let’s just say that the rocks in the photos started out as sediment in an ocean that once covered this part of the world 300 million years ago,  throw in some molten magma, seriously high pressure, another 600 million years, and the movement of a few tectonic plates…and Voila!

Animal sightings:  Grizzly bears with and without cubs, Wolves with and without pups, Dall Sheep with and without kids, Moose with and without calves, Caribou, Snowshoe hare, Arctic Squirrel, Golden Eagle, Gyr Falcon, Hoary Marmot, Porcupine and The Alaska State Bird…..Mosquitos.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather Smith permalink
    June 26, 2010 7:38 am

    Uh oh, sounds like a the backpacking community may lose a member! What an amazing experience you are having.

  2. June 26, 2010 12:01 pm

    Photos are gorgeous. Aaron is adorable. M&M are precious. Writing is excellent. Can’t wait for Part 2.

  3. Jimmy permalink
    June 28, 2010 7:58 pm

    This is so cool. You can’t leave now. I want to come back and see all of this. I want to ride the train too. HA!! You go Merge.

  4. Margie permalink
    July 23, 2010 10:40 am

    I am so loving following you around Alaska. I have to wait until my days off to catch up on the readings, so I am a little behind. The pictures are amazing. so are you!!!!

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