Like many of the national parks in Alaska, Denali National Park is so big that it’s hard to take it all in At 6 million acres, it includes the portion of the Alaska Range that encompasses North America’s highest peak, Denali (which was renamed this year back to its Athabascan name). However, it wasn’t the mountain that caused the park to be created. It was something much smaller – the endangered Dall sheep that live on the steep sides of the mountains in the park. By protecting their ecosystem -- the mountains, the glaciers, the meadows, and glacial rivers -- the wilderness was protected for the caribou, bears, moose, wolves, and many smaller animals that call the park home -- and for the many visitors who visit. But despite the park’s size, the single park road which enters from the northeast side penetrates only 90 miles into the park, and most of it is unpaved and closed to private vehicles. However, it cuts through “animal central”, the primary habitat for most of these animals. Ironically, it is the desire for both the expansive views and the intimacy of animal encounters that draw visitors to the park.
As the rain cleared, we got a glimpse of the lodge’s commanding view of the surrounding landscape. Then it was time to head back.
While the lower 48 bakes in record summer heat, we have been spending most of our time in jeans and sweatshirts. You’ll get no complaints from us, but as we prepared to move north to Fairbanks, we were taken aback by the forecast. High’s in the upper 80’s. Is that a typo? It’s like jumping from early spring to late summer in the space of a day. As we dug out our shorts and T-shirts, we were reminded that Fairbanks unique geography makes it home to the hottest temperatures in Alaska. The Alaska Range to the south and the Brooks Range to the north block its access to moderating ocean temperatures.
Can you hear me now? We had spent months on the road with Pat and Fred, and a frequent complaint was we couldn’t talk to each other underway. Although both of us had CB’s, both units were old and hadn’t been checked out before getting underway. It turned out we had no range at all, so they were pretty ineffective. Once in Fairbanks, we found someone with the knowledge and testing equipment to help us understand the problems with our units. It turned out both of us needed new antennas. We purchased and installed a new 4 foot antenna which greatly improved our transmit and receive capability. Fred’s antenna was more integrated into his coach and more difficult to replace. After a couple of parts runs and different approaches, he successfully installed the antenna. We were able to talk to each other further away, but the real test will be when we head out on the road again.