Saturday, August 20, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday US National Park Service, Tour Denali National Park with J.Q. Rose

On August 25, 2016 the US National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday. I've been celebrating this month on the J.Q. Rose blog with posts about the national parks we have visited. Today I am sharing one of the most awe-inspiring parks in the USA, Denali National Park in Alaska.  Please join me for a short tour of this gorgeous and historic place.

Happy birthday National Park Service!

Denali National Park and Preserve
We took our time driving the four hour trip north from Wasilla to the Denali National Park and Preserve. We traveled the highway surrounded by gorgeous scenery except for the occasional Mom and Pop businesses along the side of the road.  We arrived early in the evening. 

You may remember Alaska enjoys 22 hours of sunlight this time of year, so we could still site-see till 2 a.m. But we didn't. I was excited to actually be here in this magical place. I have heard so much about Denali Park all my life and Mt. McKinley . In August 2015 President Obama, using his executive power, renamed Mt. McKinley to the original Athabascan native name of Denali. 

We weren't fortunate enough to be part of the 30% who actually see Denali. Oh yes, it is there all the time...hard to move mountains...but because it is the highest mountain in North America, it's usually shrouded by clouds. Only on clear, sunny days will the cloud curtain disappear for a glimpse. The tourist area outside of Denali Park has beautiful blue T-shirts in all the souvenir shops which brag that the person wearing the shirt is one of the lucky 30%. I couldn't buy one of the cute shirts because the clouds covered the mountain when we there. My hubby was happy I couldn't purchase the shirt, but sorry we didn't see the mountain top.

Wilderness Access Center--Denali
This amazing stained glass mural is high on the wall of the Wilderness Access Center. We purchased our tickets here for the three hour ride on a green school bus into the park. Longer tours on the shuttle buses including a narrator are available. But we figured there is only one road that all the buses drive, so we took the less expensive shuttle. And, frankly, we didn't want the longer tours, especially bouncing around a mountain on a school bus for a day. No comfy tour buses allowed because they are too heavy for the one road that winds through the park. Private vehicles are not allowed on this section of the park.

TIP: There is no food in the park other than at the Visitors Center. So visitors must bring food and drinks on the bus..and consume them in the picnic tables for outdoor picnics due to trash and bears...!!! Before we left Wasilla, we shopped for lunch supplies at Walmart and carried them in a styrofoam cooler. We packed our lunches in the morning which saved us a LOT of money for meals.

We had a fantastic tour driver. He shared interesting tidbits and was alert for wildlife sightings, however, he depended on passengers to discover the animals too since the road through the park is not exactly a nice, paved two lane. It's more like a path in some areas, especially around Polychrome Dome. I had to hide my eyes at times and hold my breath while he negotiated the narrow road. Thank goodness they have some rules about who gets the right of way when the buses meet.There is no room for two buses on much of the tour. A thrill ride I'd say.

Here are photos of the sights we saw along the way. Hope you enjoy them.

This picture shows you how thick the clouds were, so no sightings of Mt. McKinley

What are these? Caribou. Do you know the difference between reindeer and caribou? Reindeer can fly!

So glad we found a camera with a 24x telephoto lens. Perfect for getting closer to the animals from the safety of the bus!!

Polychrome Dome--Notice the different colors of rock here. See that tiny road in the upper 1/3 of the picture? So glad our driver had 31 years of driving experience in Denali tours!!!

Yes, another mountain picture. I have a million of them!

Mama bear and two cubs. The bears were this tan color in the park. I was looking for black or brown. Surprised when I finally spotted these sweet things.

Dall sheep. They are only little white specks on the side of the mountain. Thank goodness for our powerful zoom.
Grand Denali Lodge--what a view from here.
 It poured rain the next morning, but we forged on in our plastic ponchos to see the demonstration of the sled dogs. Amazing animals. These are actual working dogs who patrol the park during the snowy winter conditions keeping the tradition of dog sledding alive.

Sled dog and puppy.

Look at this wildlife my DH captured in the lens. Oh, alright, it's really your trusty reporter. I just wanted to have proof that I actually was there in this fabulous park. 

TIP: If you are USA resident, pay $10. at the age of 62 and you have a lifetime pass to ALL the national parks. You better believe we plan to use this gift on future forays.

We spent the rainy day in the display areas in the park studying all the interesting information. We took in an informative movie and ranger talk, snacks in the park cafeteria, and shopping in the gift shop. Actually the rainy day turned into a welcome opportunity to learn so much about Alaska and Denali National Park.

Every time we visit a national park, I want to thank the people who had the vision to set aside these areas for future generations. In this crazy, fast-paced world of technology, I pray the mountains and lakes, the moose, bears, sheep, and eagles will still be there for my grandchildren and future generations to see and experience the awe I felt being in Denali. We must be the caretakers to preserve this blessed land.

You need not go all the way to Alaska to experience national parks. Make it a point to find a national park, lakeshore, forest, etc near you. You will be amazed.

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Have you visited a national park? Do you have a favorite park--city, township, county, state, national? Leave a comment below and let us know.

J.Q. Rose is the author of the romantic suspense novel, Deadly Undertaking.
A handsome detective, a shadow man, 
and a murder victim kill Lauren’s plan for a simple life.
Available at Amazon

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