Just like some celebrities are known by one name (Cher, Elvis, Madonna, Adele, Bono), when we’re talking about the tallest mountain in North America, we call it only Denali. The native Koyukon Athabascan people gave the mountain that name, which translated means “The Great One”.
First, a little history: In 1896 a gold prospector, William Dickey, changed the name to Mount McKinley after President William McKinley, and the park in which the mountain resides was established as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917. The state of Alaska officially changed the name back to Denali in 1975 and asked the federal government to do so too.. However, when the park was tripled in size and renamed Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, the federal government retained the name Mount McKinley for the actual mountain. It was President Barack Obama who finally gave approval (in 2015) to officially rename the mountain Denali.
Days four and five of our Alaska adventure were spent traveling to and enjoying Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali was a 123 mile bus ride south from Fairbanks. We would continue to go south for the rest of our trip, and interestingly – it got colder the further south we went. We were told that was because we were getting closer and closer to the Gulf of Alaska.
The bus stopped periodically along our route south, and once again we were struck at the vastness of this great state.
A stop for snacks along the way revealed a gift shop with specimens of just about every known Alaska animal . . .
. . . including bears!
This fish wheel on display on the property is a little better pic than the one in the water yesterday.
We loved the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.
An expansive deck overlooked the Nenana River, with views of the park in the distance.
I think one of the things that struck me each day we were in Alaska was how big it is and how unpopulated it is. One of our guides said that if you applied the people to square mile ratio of Alaska to Long Island, NY, there would be only 16 people on Long Island.
We had a great meal our first night at the lodge, and the next morning we were on a bus at 7 a.m., driving the one-mile distance to the park. We had barely gotten out of the lodge parking lot when our driver spotted this female moose walking down the side of the road at the edge of the forest.
She would be the first of several females we saw that day (this one was about an hour later in the park). We were told within the next couple of weeks the calving season would begin.
Dense forests and mountains. Denali National Park encompasses six million acres- the size of the state of Massachusetts. So beautiful!
What we came to this spot to see . . . .
Denali. We were told that only 30% of the visitors to the park actually get to see the peak of the mountain. That’s because the mountain is so tall (over 20,000 feet) that it produces its own weather and is usually covered in clouds. We felt very fortunate.
They’re very hard to see here, but on the far side of this thawing river – and beyoud – are caribou. We saw lots of them that day, along with Dall sheep (as tiny white specks high up in the mountains), many Ptarmigan (Alaska’s state bird), and a few rabbits and squirrels. We did not spot any bears, wolves, or fox.
No idea what was so funny!
I’ll be back in a few days with more of our trip AND some very current photos from a blog reader’s trip to the island this week.
Hugs and God bless.