We awoke at 5:30am (which happily felt like sleeping in), and checked out of the hotel. We got us some Starbucks downtown, then stopped at a supermarket for the supplies we felt might be hard to come by in Denali. They were playing Don’t Stop Believin’ over the loudspeaker, just for me. I also stocked up on decongestants, because I’d stopped being able to breathe since we’d gotten to Alaska.
We were well up the Parks highway by 8:30am, passing through the few suburbs of Anchorage, and then out into what felt like the middle of nowhere. It looked kind of like northern Wisconsin for a while; pine trees, cabins, and the occasional tavern. We stopped at Montana Creek to look around and climb under the railroad trestle, then headed to Talkeetna, a little town about 15 miles off the highway. It’s reportedly the model for the town in the show “Northern Exposure”.
Talkeetna is ridiculously cute. It’s all outfitters, gift shops, a famous old general store, and restaurants. Everyone is friendly. We wandered around a bunch of artsy little shops, stopped to talk to Stubbs the cat, the mayor and mascot of Talkeetna (as one of the locals informed us), and walked up to see the depot where the Alaska Railroad pulls up along the Susitna River.
this tiny airport is where almost all Mount McKinley/Denali climbing expeditions begin.
We had lunch out on the patio at the West Rib Pub, then wandered around the town some more.
We went back out to the Parks highway and continued towards Denali. We stopped at a few overlooks in Denali State Park, where we encountered our first bear warning signs, and got our first (very limited) view of Denali.
in denali state park
my obligatory sideview photo
We reached Denali National Park around 6:30pm, and drove up to our hotel, located in the little community across the highway from the park entrance, which doesn’t even have a name; directions are given based on the mile marker on the Parks Highway.
The Denalis Crow’s Nest was spectacular. It’s a bunch of cute little cabins lining the side of Sugarloaf Mountain. Ours was on the fourth tier at the far end, with a great view of Mount Healy and the park entrance. It was set up like a rustic hotel room inside, and had a couple of chairs and little table out front on the deck. We couldn’t have picked a better place to stay.
the denali party cabin (ours is the last on the left)
We unpacked and went downstairs to the Overlook Bar and Grill for dinner. We sat on the patio drinking girly drinks from milk bottles and staring at the park. It was kind of hard to believe we were actually there. After dinner, we went up and sat on the patio, reading. We had trouble deciding when to go to bed, because the sunset never actually happened.