Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.
They say that of all the people who visit Denali National Park, only 30% get to see Mt McKinley/Denali Mountain clearly. I would have been happy just to see 30% of the mountain.
For most of my trip I’d been blessed with great weather, so I have no right to complain that when we turned up in Denali it closely resembled a Scottish summer. It rained/drizzled constantly, and the clouds hung so low that sometimes we were above them. For the entire 2 days we were there.
After the chilled pace of life at Wrangell St Elias, it was a shock to suddenly be in a national park full of tourists. You can only drive your own vehicle 15 miles into the park, which when you look at the size of the whole park is nothing. Shuttle buses will take you between certain points of interest, and you are able to jump on and off buses should you want to do some hiking. We took the bus 66 miles up to Eielson Visitor Center (4 hours each way) where apparently you can see Mt McKinley/Denali from. I can’t confirm that, however, because all we could see was cloud. Even the mountains in front of the highest mountain in North America weren’t visible.
Our 8 hours sat on a bus were not completely a waste of time, though, because we saw some amazing wildlife. I only had caribou and brown bears to cross off my list by this point, so I was chuffed that our driver spotted some caribou right at the start of our journey. Then, as we rounded a corner, a brown bear ran right out in front of us and narrowly missed a collision with our bus. Our driver, Jose, was brilliant. Bus drivers are not obliged to stop for photos or provide any commentary, but Jose did both exceptionally. Concerned that the bear might be being chased, he stopped the bus immediately and cut the engine. When no other animals appeared, he explained it was probably a young male who was weaning. Bear cubs stay with their mothers until they are 4 years old, then she has to chase them away to teach them to fend for themselves.
We also saw lots more caribou that day, and some moose. On the way out of the park, I picked up a newspaper to see what Denali actually looks like.