Riding on the Denali National Park shuttle in search of wildlife was usually an all-day affair. We had plenty of time to meditate on the scenery and get to know our neighbors as the bus lurched along at 10 miles an hour.
Our contemplations, however, were often interrupted by urgent, single-syllable cries of “Moose!” or “Stop!” that brought the bus to a jolting halt.
You’d think it would be easy to spot Denali, North America’s tallest peak. It is, after all, over 20,000 feet tall. In reality, the mountain formerly known as Mount McKinley is notoriously elusive. It makes its own, constantly changing weather and is usually cloud-covered, so the odds of seeing it are fairly low. In a single day, there’s about a 33% chance of seeing the mountain in its entirety, and odds aren’t that much better that you’ll even get a glimpse of it.
That’s why Dale and I spent ten nights camping in Denali National Park and Preserve, a long time to spend in a single campground.
Our year in Ketchikan, Alaska, plus an announcement!
We left home the day after college graduation. Dale picked me up from my parents’ house, the house I grew up in, and I told my parents and sister goodbye. I was 23 but still so attached to my parents that you might say it was via umbilical cord, yet here I was, moving thousands of miles away. I climbed into the Ford Ranger, its camper stuffed with our belongings, and turned to give my house one more look. Then I started to cry. Even after we had hit the highway and were headed north, tears continued to stream down my face. It started to rain, a storm so heavy that Dale could barely see, but he said later that no way was he going to stop; I would’ve made him turn back. I cried until we hit Dallas, and then, suddenly, I quit looking back, and the tears stopped.
It was May, 1993, and Dale and I were moving from New Braunfels, Texas, to Alaska.
It used to be that the Alcan took some serious mettle to traverse. You had to carry spare tires and car parts and know how to use them, and you might spend your nights camped in the middle of nowhere due to lack of services.
I’m posting this a few days after leaving Denali National Park, where we tent-camped for ten days. I have so much to share about Denali. It’s one of the most special places on the planet. People from all over the world visit and then keep coming back, again and again.