Man, Denali National Park is/was crowded! Disney World kind of crowded! The parking lots… the roads… the stores… the hotels… the restaurants and the campgrounds. It’s where every train stops and where every tour bus driver dumps his bus load of tourists so he can sit and take a nap until they return. Most of the thousands of tourists who land in Anchorage and Fairbanks every day get off the planes, hop on a tour bus and head for Denali so it’s no wonder it’s super crowded. We knew that going into this trip and knew that the morning we woke up with plans to make the most of Denali one way or another.
With all the smoke from the 600 plus wildfires in Alaska, the chances on seeing “The Big One” aka Denali were Slim to none and Slim had already caught a ride back to the airport on a tour bus with 10,000 other tourists, most of which didn’t speak the same language as Slim. So, what did we do? Well, we smiled and went about doing our best to make the most of it. All the campgrounds were booked up so we could not stay in the park. All the surrounding campgrounds were full too so we knew we were going to have to drive in each day. After bumping into so many people just trying to look around the Visitors Information Center we decided on a plan… take the 2:00pm bus to the free Sled Dog Demo, hike back to our vans and get the crap out of there… hopefully to come back on a day that had clearer skies and clearer roads and trails.
It took a total of 4 buses to get everyone to the Dog Sled Kennels at Denali from the bus depot. We were, as luck would have it, on the fourth bus. So by the time we walked off the bus the kennels resembled something more like a zoo than a working sled dog kennel. But we made the most of it. Are you seeing a pattern? We loved seeing and petting the dogs. They are simply majestic in every way. They love to work and love to please and they are really good at what they were born to do… be a working sled dog.
After the demonstration we decided being cramped on that fourth bus was not for us and opted instead for the 2 1/2 mile hike back to the visitor center and our Travato vans… and Maggie, who was patiently waiting for us even though she would have loved to have watched the sled dogs do their thing. It was a long hike… hot… muggy… steamy… and near the end, stormy. We were actually caught in a hail storm but we made it back safely to the vans and… you guessed it… made the most of it.
We took the hail storm and crowds as a sign… the sign said “You made the most of it so now get the crap out of here!”… so we did. We headed south to the little town of Talkeetna. We loved it there… shopping, galleries and the quaintness that reminded us of a little artsy/fartsy town near our NC home, Blowing Rock. After lunch and shopping we’d had enough of even the crowds in this small town and headed out to the most remote place we could find and setup camp right on another riverbed. That night we went to bed smiling. Why? Because Alaska just makes us smile. Sure there were crowds and sure we didn’t get to see one of the biggest attractions in Alaska but we literally made the most of it and it turned out to be a great day. At one point during the day we were constantly. bumping into thousands of people and then by the end of it there was not a person, other than Nick, in sight. We took what Alaska gave us and made sweet Alaskan memories… just like you’re supposed to! That’s how you make the most of it!
Here’s the video: