Whittier, approximately 65 miles southeast of Anchorage, lies nestled at the base of the Chugach Mountains bordering Passage Canal.
We disembarked at 7am and boarded the Denali Express for today’s planned trip to Denali. However, the winds overnight and earlier in the week had caused damage to the track in various places. So we were offloaded at Talkeetna on to a bus. The train journey was slow but picturesque; the bus Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge took a further two and a half hours. It rained most of the way.
The name ''Denali'' means ''The Great One'' in the native Athabascan language. At 20,320 feet above sea level, Denali is the highest peak in North America and is surrounded by one of the world's most spectacular wildlife sanctuaries. Denali National Park is home to many types of wildlife including caribou, moose, wolves, Dall sheep, bald eagles, and the mighty grizzly bears.
In the early evening, shortly after we arrived, we visited the Husky Homestead - a top-notch husky homestead run by Jeff King, four-time champion of the Iditarod, the foremost sled dog race in the world. The race takes anywhere from 10 to 17 days and covers over 1,150 miles of breathtaking and uncompromising terrain that includes desolate, frozen tundra, windswept coastlines, dense forests and jagged mountain ranges with treacherous climbs and descents.
Denali National Park – Thursday 20 September
We woke to light rain and forecasts of rain for the day. The weather has not hindered our visit.
This morning was our Denali Natural History Tour. It showcases the first 17 miles of the official park road combining awesome scenery with Denali National Park's equally fascinating story of human habitation. The rain cleared for our visit to the valley and a very clear view was presented to us. It closed up as we left.
Mount McKinley, about 75 miles away, was hiding under clouds.
On the way into the park we spotted moose not far from the road. On the way back we sighted the same family – a bull, cow, and calf. This time, a grizzly bear chased them across the road right in front of the bus.
The park closes for the winter in a week or so.
Back at the lodge for a quick meal, it commenced raining again.
Our transfer to the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, near Talkeetna, was at 2.30pm and we arrived at 4.30pm. We hear that the rail system for the entire state of Alaska were closed down today.
The lodge is located approximately one hour from the town of Talkeetna, which is nestled at the base of Mt. McKinley and is also home to the Talkeetna, Chulitna & Susitna Rivers.
Talkeetna – Friday 21 September
Most excursions (generally river rafting and flights) were cancelled due to the weather but that did not affect us as we had not booked any.
This morning, after a few days of rain and wind, we are looking out at Mt McKinley from the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge - the highest mountain in Denali and often hidden by cloud. Today is no exception, but the top is visible with cloud in the mid-height regions. A nice 'sunny' day.
At 2pm (in about two hours' time) we board the bus down to Anchorage, arriving 5.30pm. Tomorrow, we board the Diamond Princess.