Denali National Park and Preserve

The last of the six national parks we visited on this trip, Denali National Park and Preserve was another one of the big, mysterious, wild places that got protected by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) when President Jimmy Carter signed legislation that established over 100 million acres of new national parks, preserves, and wildflife refuges in Alaska.

Fred and I in Denali's backcountry
Fred and Laura in Danali’s Backcountry

Formerly known as Mount McKinley National Park, the park was enlarged from two million acres to six million acres and it became Denali; “the High One” in the native Athabascan language. As is articulated in the Denali NP & Pres pamphlet,”Gratefully, this is a place we haven’t plundered or harvested or otherwise conquered, but we have allowed it to enrich and to inspire us over many generations. Not only did we care about the place, we cared for it. We defended it, and we still do.” And grateful are we to have had a real backcountry experience here in this vast (understatement!) and unspoiled park.

Fred’s post tells the story of us spending four days/three nights out in this untamed wilderness, so I won’t repeat the details. I will say, however, that this park is mainly known by us dwellers in the Lower 48 for having the highest mountain peak in North America. On a good day, which is only about twenty percent of the time, Mt. McKinley “comes out” and reveals her full glory — all 20,320 feet of her impressive self. Well, we were in the eighty percent club, for we never saw her, even though our basecamp was “just” over a mountain peak away from a terrific view this “High One.” As Fred tells, it rained for all but the first hour of our time out in the park — yep, it rained for four days and three nights! — which was most always accompanied by low-ceiling clouds preventing our group from catching even a glimpse.

Our trip was far from disappointing, however. We met and camped with six other terrific outdoor enthusiasts with whom we enjoyed our adventures. Lead by two outstanding wilderness guides from Alaska Alpine Adventures, Gus and Jess, we all followed their instructions for safety and survival in a place like this, ate their cooking and told them it was good (it actually really was!), tried to sleep in spite of wet tents and light for all but about three hours a day, and overall had one of the best experiences of our lives!

Ruth Glacier in Denali NP

Instead of sharing more photos, I endeavored to have a go at my first movie. It’s not that fancy; just pictures in a slideshow. I tried to add music but that didn’t go so well, so for now I’m punting on a soundtrack. Oh well… here’s my movie of our Denali Backcountry adventure — best viewed full screen:

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