default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard


Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 9:29 pm

Every year, Denali National Park Service opens its road lottery in

June. For a $10.00 application fee, you can enter to secure one of

the 1600 road permits that are issued for entry to Denali National

Park. For four days after the "regular" season closes, the Park

allows four hundred cars a day to drive the 90 mile road to its end

in Kantishna. In addition to the ten dollar application fee, if you

are one of the lucky ones to win a road permit, there are a couple

of additional fees that bring the total entry cost to $55.00. So

what do you get for $55.00? The experience of a lifetime.

Alaska residents know that Mount McKinley, The Great One, is so huge

that it creates its own weather. Because of that, it is impossible

to predict when the mountain will be visible. It is only visible

about 20% of the time and there is obviously a greater chance that

you won't get to see the splendor or magnitude of North America's

tallest mountain. Tourists and residents alike, are awed by the

sight of this magnificent mountain, especially since it is so

elusive. Add to this, the unpredictability of Alaska's weather in

September, and your chances of seeing Mount McKinley, decrease even


We headed south with four dogs, 25 extra gallons of diesel,

emergency survival gear and food, enough diet Coke to keep me happy

for a day or two, cameras and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The weather in Fairbanks was gray and drizzly when we left,

prompting speculation on what the weather would bring in the Park.

The Weather Channel was predicting sunny skies with comfortable

temperatures. Weather predictions are like opinions, everyone has

one. We topped the ridge surrounding Fairbanks as the sun emerged,

and the clouds disappeared revealing an azure sky. The weather gods

obviously smiled on us as the weather held throughout the day and

night. It was perfect - absolutely, poetically, picture perfect.

After paying our fees, purchasing trinkets in the gift shop, and a

large caffeine fix for Roger, we headed into the Park. Leaving all

the unfortunate souls who didn't win the lottery at the Savage River

turnout (the last place the general public can drive to -

approximately 11 miles into Denali), we crossed the bridge at Savage

River, reassured the young Park Ranger at the check in that we

wouldn't play with the bears or feed the wildlife, and headed off.

Mount McKinley was not only visible, the view was unobstructed by

clouds, snow, fog, mist, haze, smog or ozone. Within the first hour

of driving while watching Mount McKinley the entire time, we ran out

of adjectives, superlatives and any and all words that could begin

to describe the majesty, the magnitude, the mystique and the magic

that you feel when looking at something, anything this monumentally

huge. Coming up woefully short to try and describe the beauty we

were seeing, we settled on, "Wow".

I cannot begin to do the Mountain justice in describing what I was

feeling as we gazed in wonder at it. Most times, we just simply sat

silently in awe and reverence. There is something sacred and

spiritual being in the presence of a monument so great as Mount

McKinley. We are ants in comparison. It can't be bulldozed or

paved over. It can't be sanitized or reduced to an "A" ticket ride

at Disney World so that it is safe. It just is. When I look at it

and ponder the forces that created it at the beginning of time, my

existence seems minute and tenuous.

We drove our usual speed - turtle, letting the hurried and harried

masses go around us. We weren't on a schedule or deadline. We

didn't need to reach Kantishna at a particular time in order to turn

around and leave the Park before it got too late. As long as we

were back at the Savage River bridge before midnight, we were fine.

The views, the wildlife and the beauty dictated how far we went

before stopping again. We let something bigger guide our journey.

Near the end of the road, not far from Wonder Lake, we stopped for

dinner. Sitting on the tailgate of the truck, eating peanut butter

and jelly sandwiches as the alpenglow started to color Mount

McKinley with wisps of salmon, electric pink, vibrant orange and

touches of purple, we had the best seats in the house for Nature's

dusky show. As the shadows gathered around us, we reluctantly

turned East back toward the entrance that we had left behind a world


Dusk gave way to dark. It is a primitive darkness of long ago -

before street lights and manmade torches. It is the darkness that

you remember from childhood summers when it felt as if you could

reach out and dip your fingers in it. With no other light to

interfere, the stars began to twinkle and shimmer for us. The Big

Dipper brilliantly hovered overhead, the lights from the truck as

its only competition.

As we talked about the wonders and the magic that we had been

privileged to witness, we wondered how it could have been more

perfect. It was Christmas morning and my birthday all rolled up

into one trip. It was natural perfection. There was not a single

thing that could have made the day more idyllic than it had already

been. That is until the aurora began its ghostly seduction.

The first indication that we might get to see the aurora came as a

whisper light ribbon of pale green. Then to make sure that it had

our full attention, the aurora spontaneously burst across the

blackness. It swirled and spun like veils on a belly dancer. Pools

of color dancing and undulating, teasing us with whispers of

shimmering light before fading into blackness. This light show went

on for hours as we drove slowly toward the entrance. The aurora

escorted us home all the way to Fairbanks, forcing us to pull over

too many times to count so that we could watch in awe and wonder at

its beauty. It was the perfect ending to an absolutely perfect day.

As I attempt to document and capture all that I witnessed, I find my

words and my vocabulary woefully lacking in trying to describe the

overwhelming beauty, the raw power of the land, the absence of

manmade intrusions in this magical place. I desperately search for

ways to convey the magnitude, the majesty and the magic. I can't.

My words pale in comparison to seeing this natural wonder first

hand. Even if I had hours to spend poring over a dictionary and

thesaurus, I would never be able to find the words to do the

experience justice. All I can say is, I couldn't have asked for a

more perfect trip.


Fairbanks born candidate for governor, Bill Walker asks, "Is Fairbanks bet...

Gubernatorial candidate, Bill Walker, is concerned that the state is in a $7 ...

Find Yourself

You're ready for something new. New challenges, new places, new adventures. E...

Madden Real Estate

Blue Loon - Papa Roach Live 2014 (Rev)

Blue Loon - Papa Roach Live 2014 (Revised)Fairbanks, AlaskaFriday, July 11th ...