Monday, July 26, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 11: Anchorage to Denali

Alaska Trip Day 11 (Sun Jul 4): 247 miles, 5 hr 1 min

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To be honest, not a whole lot happened on Day 11. ... Actually, what a silly thing to say. We are still on vacation, in Alaska, right? I just think this is the point of the trip when vacation fatigue started to hit. Not so much driving fatigue - thankfully, that wouldn't hit until much, much later - just the fatigue that comes with constantly being under pressure to make the most of our time. We've been pretty much on the go constantly for the last week and a half, so we took it a little slow on Day 11.

What does "taking it a little slow" mean? Well, for starters, it means driving 10 mph below the speed limit on a two-lane road. I'm sure the locals loved that! Thankfully for them, there are plenty of opportunities to pass on the Parks Highway (as opposed to the Seward Highway).

"Taking it slow" also meant not taking as many pictures, and taking a long, unnecessary side trip for lunch (see "B" on the map).

I tweeted that this was a "small town parade", but really, I don't know if this was a parade or something else. All I know is that we had to stop for a few minutes near the town of Willow to let a few cars with American flags cross the street in front of us. But so what? We're in no hurry!

This area north of Anchorage is collectively known as the Matanuska-Susitna Valley (or, the "Mat-Su") and is now one of the most densely populated areas of the state (according to Wikipedia). Population: 80,000. That doesn't sound like much, but that's more than the combined population of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. No, that still doesn't sound like much, but this is Alaska, you know. I guess this is where everyone who wants to live in an urban Alaska area besides Anchorage lives.

Hey, look, it's Mount McKinley! ... Or not. Apparently, on a clear day, you can see the highest point in North America from the Parks Highway. But how often does that happen, really? I'm guessing, not very.

The Parks Highway, quite frankly, isn't all that interesting until you get to that first green area on the map (Denali State Park). Then, things get more scenic.

Up to this point, the two dominant colors we've seen in Alaska were green (trees) and white (snow). But the landscape up towards Denali is completely different. While coastal Alaska looks similar to Washington (only with larger mountains, a lot more snow, and fewer people) inland Alaska looks more like Wyoming or Montana. I guess that makes sense, right?

Six miles south of the Denali National Park entrance, this cabin was our home for two nights. There are a lot of independent resort-type places in the Denali National Park area, encompassing every type of accomodation you can think of, from full-scale luxury resorts, regular hotels, and cabin-type doo-hickeys such as ours. And they're all very expensive. But isn't everything in Alaska?

We got to the cabin by 3 PM, which allowed for some "bonus Denali time"! I'll cover the "bonus Denali time" in the next post.

Finally, I don't know if they had July 4th fireworks anywhere near Denali National Park that night - probably not - but even if they did, we went to bed at 9 PM (three hours before sunset), so we would have slept through them anyway. That's okay, though. I'll take National Parks over fireworks any day of the week.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

It is also possible to see Denali from Anchorage on a "handful of days a year." I was there one of those days!