Day 39 – July 14, 2001 – We woke at our cabins outside of Denali National Park to discover that it was sprinkling and overcast. A 10:00 pm drive to the Park last night had confirmed that private cars could not drive into the park more than the first 14 miles. Furthermore, casual transportation such as the shuttle buses available in other parks is non-existent in Denali. A bus ride out to Wonder Lake cost $71/person and took 11 hours round trip. The assure you that you will see wildlife on this trip but can’t guarantee that you will actually be able to see Mt. McKinley due to the clouds.. Other, shorter, bus rides were available but they were also pretty expensive and took 6 or 8 hours. It may be worth the money and time if you have several days to explore the park and line things up but we decided to explore what we could and not make ourselves crazy trying to get tickets. (NOTE to potential Denali visitors: you can order these tickets on-line in advance; a much better idea than arriving at 5:00 am to stand in line in hopes of getting some when you arrive.)
We slept in, had a lazy breakfast, and drove down to the park. It was a pretty drive in to the Savage River Campground but we didn’t see any of the famous wildlife. We figure they are all behind the Ranger Station that stands on the road. RVs that are staying at one of the campsites (and only one campsite takes RV’s) could pass but the tent campers had to take shuttle buses to get back to the campgrounds further in. We had a good visit with a ranger on duty, a man born in Texas (“You know how it is when you are born in Texas; you are ALWAYS from Texas”.) and actually saw a caribou at a very great distance. Since it was too far away to photograph, you will have to take my word for it. Ken and Joyce went into Healy, the next town up the road and say they saw moose but we have to take their word for that, too. We have no pictures.
The park has fewer facilities than most we’ve been to but does have a pretty nice visitor’s center. We watched a video there, bought some postcards of Denali, and headed back to the cabin. Jennifer fixed a wonderful supper of chicken parmesan (we had a small kitchenette in our cabin) and we settled in. It was a nice day but we were all disappointed that we had come this far and hadn’t been able to see Denali itself.