Unless you’re willing/able to walk or bike 90+ miles one way, the only way into the heart of Denali National Park is via a (usually crowded) park service bus.
However, once a year there is a lottery drawing for passes into the park where you’re able to drive your own vehicle the entire 90+ miles down the only road into the park.
I’ve applied for this pass every year since learning I was moving to Alaska – all with the same disappointing outcome. This year was no different, but my friend Cally won a pass and offered me a seat in their truck with her family. Of course I jumped at the chance.
Due to other plans I had on Saturday it was barely Sunday morning when I pulled into a small rest area just outside the park. My bed was already made up in the back of the Jeep so after a short trip to the loo (read: a little into the woods behind a bush) I crawled into my sleeping bag and passed out.
Four hours later my alarm was signaling it was time to wake up. After a quick change I warmed up my rig and met up with Cally and the rest of her family. After a few laughable hiccups we were heading down the road deeper and deeper into Denali National Park.
At the Toklak River rest stop at mile 53 we heard of a few people up ahead who had turned around due to an inbound storm. Not ones to let a little Alaskan storm stop us, we continued ahead on our drive despite the impending snowfall.
Twenty some miles later our path collided with the storms. Despite its best efforts to remove all lines of sight, we were able to scout out the biggest moose I’ve ever seen.
When we drove out of the storm lunch was served from the bed of Zak’s truck at the shore of Wonder Lake. Only after we’d had our fill and stretched our legs did we begin our return trip.
At Eielson Visitor Center I took the chance to make my first snowman of the winter.
With the storm behind us we were making good time on the trip back towards the park entrance.Suddenly we were stopped by an impassable traffic jam that could only mean one thing..
When they finally moved on, we did too. It was midafternoon when I was returned to my Jeep and the workweek hustle of Monday morning was beginning to loom over me. I long for the days when I no longer have to be bound by a schedule, but until then, I will rock the weekend warrior status with pride.
Thanks for the tag along, friend!