Denali, the “Great One”: Getting a glimpse of our most majestic mountain

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

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This is one in a series of articles about our trip to Denali National Park.



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.

Did our time investment pay off?  Yes, it did.

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Homer, Alaska: Mountains and coast, oodles of otters, and some really big fish

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The city of Homer perfectly matched my vision of an Alaskan waterfront town—part grizzled sea captain, part aquamarine enchantress.

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From Alaska, random thoughts about the road trip (It’s over!)

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This is our baby (1997-2008). Dale has wanted to go to Denali National Park for as long as I can remember, and  he even suggested that we name our puppy after the mountain.  We thought about our Denali lots and lots during this trip!

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.

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Jasper National Park, Canada

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Vista from Old Fort Loop Trail, Jasper

This is one of three posts about Canada’s spectacular national parks.

After Banff, our next stop on the road trip was neighboring Jasper National Park, another Canadian beauty.  Jasper is the largest of the Rocky Mountain National Parks, covering more than 4200 square miles.  We only spent two nights in Jasper, but we made the most of it.

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Banff National Park, Canada: There are (almost) no words

Fourth stop on the Alaska road trip

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This is one of three posts about some of Canada’s spectacular national parks.


There are no words to adequately describe Banff National Park, and as a writer, it’s really, really frustrating when my vocabulary comes up so short.

I guess if I had to choose an appropriate adjective, it would be ridiculous; what with its UNESCO World Heritage Designation and pristine ecosystem and dense evergreen forests and towering mountains, and oh yeah, its immense glaciers, Banff is just plain ridiculous.

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Waterton Lake National Park and our first bear encounter!

Alaska road trip, stop three

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The International Boundary line–Canada, here we come!

This is one of three posts about some of Canada’s spectacular national parks.


After leaving Glacier, we crossed the border into Canada and headed for Waterton Lakes National Park, in Alberta.  The two parks are actually a single entity, called Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, established in 1932 by members of the Rotary International organizations in Alberta and Montana.  Both parks have been designated as Biosphere Reserves, and the Peace Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  (Note: each park has its own administration and entrance fees and you have to go through customs when crossing the border).

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Glacier National Park

Second stop on our Alaska road trip

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Glacier National Park, in northeastern Montana, isn’t just a jewel, it’s an entire crown.

It’s part of the “Crown of the Continent,” 28,000 square miles of wild, rugged Rocky Mountain terrain encompassing the corners of Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana.  Its sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park, sits just across the border in Canada.  In addition to these two national parks, the Crown of the Continent has several national forests and Indian Reservations and numerous Montana state and Canadian provincial parks.

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Ft. Davis: Texas’ frontier army post

A surprisingly moving visit to this little historical site

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We came to Ft. Davis army post expecting to spend an hour tops. We’d been there years ago and remembered it as being a dry, dusty little place, your average 19th-century army fort, with a small cluster of buildings and an American flag flying out front.  A museum in the visitors center orients you to the history; from there you can wander the grounds and inspect the handful of buildings that have been restored, and, if you don’t put this place into its proper historical context, you may forget it as soon as you leave.

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Arlington National Cemetery

A look at this sacred national treasure on Memorial Day

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Arlington National Cemetery is situated on 624 acres of green, gently rolling land in northern Virginia.  Even if it wasn’t a national shrine to the American soldier, and even if some of the most important historical figures in America weren’t buried here, it would still be a striking place, what with its expansive views of Washington, D.C., which is just across the Potomac River from the cemetery.

But the view that arrests the attention is not that of our nation’s Capitol, but instead of the headstones–row after continuous row of precisely-placed marble slabs, thousands upon thousands of them, stretching across the property as far as the eye can see.  Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 400,000 people, and most of their graves are marked with these simple headstones.  As visitors look out over the cemetery, they can’t help but think of the many men and women who have served in the United States armed forces, and it invariably has the effect of leaving one speechless.

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Washington, DC: President Lincoln and Ford’s Theatre

A Presidents’ Day look at Abraham Lincoln’s life, death, and lasting legacy

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A bust of President Abraham Lincoln, displayed at Ford’s Theatre

Today is Presidents’ Day, the perfect day to talk about Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President and without a doubt one of our most important.  He ended slavery, kept America from falling to pieces, and kicked some serious vampire ass (oh wait, that last one is probably fictional–but I’m pretty sure he would’ve been up to the task).

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