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July 17, 2011 / Jim Fenton

Alaska Day 10: Denali National Park

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Alaska.  To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

We had booked an all-day (actually 14-hour) bus tour down most of the main road of Denali National Park. To minimize congestion and for preservation of the park, private vehicles are for the most part not permitted on the park road. Instead, there is a bus system for transporting visitors. In addition to the scheduled buses, there are tours operated by concessions under contract to the National Park Service. Our tour took us basically the entire length of Park Road, a distance of 92 miles each way.

Our bus driver/tour guide, Kevin, did an excellent job of describing the history of the park and of spotting and stopping the bus for many wildlife sightings. Among the animals we saw were moose, caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bears, and golden eagles. But one of the most prized sightings was not of a living thing: the sky cleared just enough, at the right time, for us to see Mt. McKinley! We have talked with quite a few Alaska residents who haven’t had that opportunity yet.

At the midpoint of our trip, we stopped by Kantishna Roadhouse for lunch and some activities. We chose the dog sledding demonstration, where I learned that the predominant sled dogs aren’t huskies any more, but rather mixed breeds chosen for their temperament and physical characteristics.  Irish setters, for example, lend their excitement to the team very favorably.

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Returning to the start brought more animal sightings, particularly grizzly bears. After a light dinner at the hotel, we turned in early.  14 hours on dirt roads takes a lot out of a person.

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