One of our main destinations in Alaska was the Denali National Park, which covers large areas of the Alaska Range and in the middle of it the Mount Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, which is the highest mountain in North America. We arrived at the park in the late afternoon and did all the usual steps to register for the backcountry permit. We also bought tickets for the bus shuttles, that would bring us into the park on the next day. The next morning we started our journey into the park. We drove past snow-covered summits further and further into the park.
The bus driver told some interesting facts about the park, which made the bus journey alone worth the money and time we spent for it. Additionally, we could actually really see some wildlife from the bus.
On the way back from the tour we let us drop off at unit 29, which we were registered for for two nights. Heavily packed we started to hike into the alpine tundra. It was the very first time we went backcountry hiking where there were absolutely no trails available and only the pathfinding skills led our way. We weren’t that good at it at all, so we faced large scrubs and canyons from time to time. This all really bothered us after a while, especially because we needed approximately one hour to cover one mile in that terrain. In the late afternoon, we placed our tent into a mountain saddle, which we thought was clearly visible from our environment. That was important because we didn’t want to surprise any wildlife with our tent.
By the time it got really cold and making dinner on our cooking place about a hundred meters away from our tent was no comfortable thing. At least the meal got us a little bit of warmth and energy. We then quickly went to bed, because the tent protected us against the freezing winds. But it got colder and colder that night, the temperatures dropping below zero degrees Celsius letting us barely sleep any second.
This showed again, that we as traveler didn’t have all of the best equipment. Only the morning sun let the temperatures in the tent rise to a bearable level. After the breakfast, which gave us new strength and power, we decided to climb the summit of the Igloo Mountain, which, compared to the Sable Mountain, that was also in our unit, wasn’t covered with that much snow.
The way up pointed out to be easier as we thought, as we quickly gained height and let the difficult scrubs below us. We climbed the ridge to the very top and really had an amazing view over large parts of our environment. Except on Mount Denali, which was covered by many clouds. As we made it to the summit a lot faster than expected and also the way down didn’t take us that long we then came to the decision, that we would leave the park on the same day. By that, we could avoid spending another cold night in the tent. We definitely would’ve been able to stay another night, but it was only early in the afternoon and we didn’t have any plans for the rest of the day, so only waiting for the night seemed to be a stupid thing. We packed our things and made our way back to the road, where we had to wait for a bus to pick us up. We had to let two buses pass, as they were completely full. Only the third one could pick us up. Really unfortunate, when the busses only go once an hour. So finally in the evening we arrived at our van and could spend a much more comfortable night in it. To still experience something in the park we took part in a tour of the Husky station, that was home for all the sled dogs of the park. Petting the dogs, getting a small presentation and a demonstration of their sledding skills completed the program.
The Denali National Park will definitely stay in my mind as a positive memory, as it really is a home of awesome nature and wilderness. I will probably return there one day, as I couldn’t experience one thing: seeing the Mount Denali!