Location: Denali National Park, Alaska
Dates: 8/29/2013 – 8/31/2013
Our 92 mile bus ride took us to the end of the Denali road and where we would be spending the next two nights. Thursday and Friday nights we had reservations at the Denali Backcountry Lodge which is one of the few private lodges licensed to operate within the park. I believe there are only two or three other places to stay this far into the park (unless you are camping).
Yep, this would be the entrance sign for the lodge.
The lodge was in a valley surrounded on two sides by mountains and had a nice river running through the property. They had fishing poles that you could use if you wanted to try and catch some fish from this river.
Every day the lodge would have a wide selection of activities that you could participate in. The evening before, at dinner, one of the guides would go over everything that they were offering. Most of the things were hikes, but there was also bike rides, gold panning, yoga, fishing, etc. They would rate each activity by difficulty and limit the number of people who could participate in each. Then after dinner you would sign up for what you wanted to do the next day.
This is a picture of the main lodge where pre-dinner appetizers were served upstairs and then you would move downstairs to the dining room for dinner. The small building to the right was the “spa” where they were offering massages (for a price!).
When we arrived we walked around to check everything out and to get some pictures. This shows some of the cabins right on the river and the mountains in the background.
They have a foot bridge over the river and on the far side they have a screened room with a wood burning stove.
Some of the trees were beginning to show some fall color, but we were probably about a week early. We heard that the period of fall color in Denali (and Alaska in general) is very short. So, timing it just right is not easy.
Just a short walk from our lodge was the Fannie Quigley cabin. She was a legendary miner who lived in this area of Denali back in the early 1900’s. I t sounds like she was a very colorful character who had no problem dealing with the rough living conditions. Here’s a link to a short biography about her and her life in Kantishna.
The first hike we signed up for was to Wilkersham Dome just a short drive from the lodge. This was not a very long hike, about two miles round trip, but was fairly strenuous in that it gained about 1100 feet over a very short distance.Denali National Park - Wilkersham Dome Hike at EveryTrail
Today’s hike should have given us some great views of the surrounding mountains with their snowfields and glaciers, unfortunately this day’s weather was not great and we had clouds during the entire time. Our guide, Jill (shown below), was very knowledgeable about the plants and animals found within the park. Here she is showing us some likens that looks just like the caribou antlers.
There were some monitoring stations on top of this mountain where they gather seismic data. We spent about a half hour exploring the top of this mountain, but as you can see the visibility was limited.
Although we could not see to far off in the distance, if you look down you could find some very interesting plants with some great colors.
When we were at the top of the mountain it started raining very hard. So, we made a beeline down the side of the mountain since some in the group weren’t dressed for the weather and were getting cold and wet. It was very slippery on the way down and we had to be careful we didn’t end up falling on the muddy trail.
A long wet hike leads us to this next picture. This was probably the most important room at the lodge! You really can’t go hiking in Denali without getting wet and it doesn’t really matter if it’s raining or not. There’s just a lot of water in Alaska. There’s no electric lines that lead this far into the park, so all the lodges have to generate their own power using diesel generators. These generators produce a large amount of heat. So, they built a room attached to the power shed where you could place any wet items. This room was loud, dirty, dark and HOT. You could place anything in here and it would dry in a short amount of time. This drying room was really a great idea and we used it many times over the two days we were here.
In the afternoon we signed up to do a hike at Blueberry Hill near Wonder Lake. We also choose the option to bike back from the lake. The lodge had a van deliver us to to Wonder Lake and drop us off with our bikes. We were then free to hike around as much as we wanted and then bike back to the lodge. Most of the way back was down hill, except for one long uphill haul.Denali National Park - Blueberry Hill Hike at EveryTrail
Our afternoon hike started off with a little rain, but then it stopped and began to clear a little. Unfortunately. it did not clear enough for us to see mount Denali. We never did see the mountain the entire time we were in the Denali park area, but I guess less than 25% of the visitors get to see it, so we’re not alone.
We started hiking on the Blueberry Hill trail which was a fairly easy hike starting at the park road. Again, the fall colors in this area were amazing as you can see in some of the pictures below.
There were blueberry bushes everywhere and they were covered with fruit. Julie just had to try some everyone now and again.
If it were clear, then this shot would give a great view of Denali, but with this cloudy weather it wasn’t going to happen. Maybe next time!
Julie and I learned something on this hike. We had hiked to the top of a hill, which was a one way, out and back hike. We thought we saw another trail down below near the edge of Wonder lake. So, instead of doubling back, we decided to bushwhack it across the tundra to this other trail (which we found out later really did not exist). Anyway, the further we got away from the trail we were on, the harder it got to walk. The earth was so spongy and thick with undergrowth and it got to the point where it was about impossible to make any headway. We finally gave up and tried to get back to our original trail. We just about wore ourselves out getting back to firm land. So, we learned that walking across the open Alaska Tundra is NOT a good idea. The caribou and other animals sure make it look easy, but it’s not!
After our hikes, we biked back to the lodge. We wanted to make sure we made it back in time for happy hour and appetizers. We have our priorities!!
The bike ride back was very nice. We were alone on the road, out in the middle of nowhere with beautiful scenery all around. I now wish we had some more time to do more rides in the park.Denali National Park - Biking from Wonderlake to Backcountry Lodge at EveryTrail
Here’s a link to all my pictures from the time we spent at the Denali Backcountry Lodge.
When our time was done at the Backcountry Lodge, we again took the Alaska Train down to the big town of Talkeetna were we had some outings planned. I’ll cover that part of the trip in the next blog post.
On 9/20/2013 added some YouTube Video