Well another beautiful day. Sunshine as far as we can see. So many visitors do not have clear skies like we have. When people come to Denali National Park, they come to see North America’s highest peak, Mt McKinley. We have not been disappointed. For many, the mountain is covered with dense cloud.
I have to say, the breakfasts have not been near as good as they are in Asia. Americans don’t seem to consider breakfast as an important meal as they do their coffee and donuts. However, we managed to have some cereal and hot food before boarding an old school bus and making our way into the only American National Park that has been ‘created’ to protect the wildlife. And so much of it there was; one moose and a couple of sheep, is all we saw. At least when searching for leopard in Africa, we came across millions of other wild beasts roaming around; elephants, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, lion and rhino. Such a long way to come for 3 or 4 animals. When the moose was seen, the bus stopped and reversed back just before the beast ‘went bush’. Oh, it was SO exciting! Ha Ha!
But in the distance were the peaks of Mt McKinley. And that did look majestic. Although cloud was swirling around, the two peaks made a few appearances, albeit 70 miles away, we were told. I had in my mind that if we took a helicopter ride, a circuit of the great mountain would be included. Wrong! just a view from a higher elevation.
After a lunch with a fantastic view, we were collected from the motel lobby for the transfer to the helicopter departure point. There were three smartly painted helicopters ready to take us on an hours ride over the Denali National Park. After the full weigh in then a video briefing, we were strapped into a helicopter. Our pilot was young in his early 30s. Fortunately we had a person on board that asked lots of questions. We found out the pilot had been an instructor for 3 and half years and so had quite a few flying hours up. Although it was very windy, we only felt vibrations rather than the buffering we felt on the fixed wing flight to the Arctic circle the other day.
Once over the snow covered mountains, we learned that during the winter months it snows only once a month or so. There are no ski fields in the park. We are not allowed to fly too low – it may interfere with the wildlife (that one moose just may start calving early). There are some bush walks but not too many.
In the distance is Mt McKinley poking its head above a cloud mass. It does look awesome even from 60-70 miles away. We circle around a glacier that shows ‘folded’ masses of ice and after about 45 minutes in the air, head back to the departure point.
Tomorrow, we board a train and head out of Denali National Park towards Mt McKinley National Park (different to the mountain) 120 miles, and then 50 miles by coach.