Denali and The Alaskan Range

We left Fairbanks all excited to hit head to Denali National Park.  Along the way we saw an Airstream that looked just like us with the same truck, except it was silver, parked at a rest stop.  We decided to stop and say hello.  Nice folks from Shasta, they were heading back down the road on their way home, and had already been in Alaska for a while.  They said they were supposed to stay at Denali, but the campground had a team measuring people and they were 5 feet to long.  Unfortunately we were the same exact length as them we realized.  We tried anyway, but were turned away.  You have to be 40 feet or under with your total length including your tow vehicle, and we were 45 feet.  A real bummer, especially since we booked in February!  This was a huge disappointment, and we left with no idea what to do next.  There was a lower campground that we could have fit in, but they had no spots available.  Be sure to book the right campground if you are more than 40 feet long!

We ended up kinda feeling lost.  We came 3500 miles to go to Denali National Park.  So we moved down the road.  Pulled over and looked at the Mile Post book we had – the best resource book ever for traveling Alaska, everyone uses it like the bible here.  We ended up being across from a road called the Denali Highway.  It was a gravel highway that cuts through the plains with the Alaskan Range, lakes and rivers all around.  We drove in a little way and realized it was gorgeous.  We realized the land was mostly BLM out here, so we found an amazing spot at mile 96 and pulled over.  There was a fire pit here from people camping in the past, and the view was to die for!  The whole Alaskan Range right in front of us!  Beautiful!   And to top it off we got a double rainbow.  It was a couple days before the solstice, we stayed up late, walked around and enjoyed the evening!  We realized we were better off, the park would have been super busy, the sites would have been small, and would have been on top of other campers.  This spot was unbeatable!

Next we made our way to the town of Talkeetna.  A perfect town for us to go to next.  It was at the base of the Denali and on a river.  There was a brewery here, cute restaurants, and a small hippie town vibe!  We stayed at a campground on the river here.  We walked into town a nice short five minute walk over the railroad track, and got some breakfast in the morning at an old 1954 Airstream food truck.  The town was quiet in the morning, it was an overcast day, and we kept joking about whether we would be able to even see Denali.  Then the next thing you know we walked down to the river, and all the sudden it was sunny, and there she was!  Once we saw the weather was going to be awesome, we decided f** it, let’s take a plane ride around Denali.

We took a little 8-seater plane with K2 Avaition, and flew so close it felt like you could touch it.  Never seen mountains that close, let alone the largest in North America.  The weather was perfect, our captain was awesome, and we were so glad we decided to go for it.  He told us they had invited Obama up for a flight for the re-naming of Denali last year.  It was Mt McKinnley for a long time, but the locals have always called it Denali, and Obama set it straight.  However, when they came they flew over it in Airforce One, so they saw it 16,000 feet higher than us.  So essentially one time in out life that our view was better than the presidents.  This was an amazing adventure.  Brian took my dream portrait up there, my ultimate adventure photographer photo.  Awe – yeah!

We dug Talkeetna.  We went to the a lodge there called The Alaskan Lodge, and had dinner one night, the next night we went back for a cocktail and the sunset. Their view was of the whole range including Denali, and the sunset right over it.  We decided we might have to come back to this lodge for Christmas and to see the Northern Lights.  They had a bakery called Flying Squirrel that had just the right hippie lunch we were needing and fresh made brick oven breads.  We loved the Airstream food truck, their specialty was a spinach bread, but the breakfast burrito hit the spot.  Their was a store called High Summit for those of you 21 and up looking for a “cookie”.  The Denali Brewing Company had a restaurant in town, and up the road they had the brewery and tasting room.  Went to both, of coarse!  Overall our Denali adventures became more amazing, and we were thankful things just got better.

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