I’ve been to some beautiful places over the past few years. But more than ever before, I was affected by the surrounding beauty of creation and its Creator on this trip. The golden colors of the changing leaves, and even underbrush painted with fiery color. Rocky cliffs, and vibrant rainbows were everywhere, and I was in awe.
The second half of our trip in Alaska took us north into Denali National Park. We really wanted to see the wildlife and Mt McKinley (known as Denali in Alaska). After several days of rain, our drive was a beautiful one. We pulled the vehicle over several times as we took in what would turn out to be the best views we would get of the mountain.
Soon we arrived at our adorable cabin – with cookies on the bed waiting for us! These were definitely more relaxing accommodations than those damp nights in the tent the week before.
Tuesday, August 31st
Our first day at the park we focused on exploring our free and accessible options, and planning our trip deeper into the park. The only way to get into the heart of the park is either on a shuttle bus, or getting a vehicle permit. The forecast seemed iffy over our entire stay, so we took our chances and planned to take the bus on the following day. That afternoon we went to visit the park’s sled dogs. Not only were they beautiful, but each dog was so excited about the chance to pull the sled for the demonstration. I felt sorry for all the dogs that weren’t chosen, but instead had to watch their teammates do the job! I wish I would get that pumped about hard work!
From there we hiked for a few miles, enjoying the views and the blueberries along the way.
Wednesday, September 1st
We were at the bus station for 6:30am. It was chilly, overcast, and my hot chocolate was as hot as it should be when you’re finishing the mug – not when you’re starting it. We soon discovered that we had pretty close to the worst bus driver ever. As we headed into the mountains, zig-zagging along the cliffs we really hoped that our diver wasn’t as interested in dying as he sounded. This was going to be a long 11 hour bumpy bus ride to hopefully see a mountain that was nowhere in site. I started praying. Lord, show us your glory today! Part the clouds and let us be in awe!
Finally we arrived at our destination – mile point 85: Wonder Lake. I’ve seen some gorgeous shots taken from here of Denali. It’s the closest we could get to the mountain without hiking in. But our short stay at Wonder Lake just left us wondering where the mountain was. It was drizzling again, and with no real protection from the rain, we decided to head back to the next stop and wait there for God to answer our prayers.
At the Eielson visitor center we abandoned our bus and waited. The sun was just beginning to break through the clouds. We did a little hiking, and basking in the sunshine. A few hours later an open bus was heading out. This was our best chance to make it back out of the park, so we took it. Just as we were loading up, The Great One peeked out above the clouds.
While we didn’t get the gorgeous mountain view we were hoping for, the ride back out of the park made up for it. We saw an abundance of wildlife – moose, grizzly, caribou, wolf, fox, dall sheep, snowshoe hare, loon, and ptarmigan. We got lots of closeup views with moose just off the road, bears making their way around the bus, and 7 sheep parked in the middle of the road for a while.
Thursday, September 2nd
In the end, the long day was definitely worth it, but we decided to spend the next morning chilling out at the cabin. Of course when we woke up there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so after a few games of Stratego and some time reading at the creek outside our cabin, we headed back into the park for a relaxed afternoon.
Friday, September 3rd
Friday morning we packed up and hit the road back to Anchorage. We had been driving for miles and miles without any sign of a gas station. I started to get concerned, but figured it couldn’t be too much farther before we came across one. After all – the light hadn’t even come on yet. It wasn’t long before we were completely out – and as we started coasting I’m picturing Nick walking for miles to find us some gas. Just then I saw one of those blue signs, informing us of services 1 mile ahead! We coasted down to 35mph, where I was forced to break and wait for traffic to pass so I could turn into the gas station. Of course all momentum was lost, and this is where my strong husband got us rolling down into the station. How kind of God to let us run out so close to gas instead of miles away!
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We made it back to enjoy pizza and games with our wonderful hosts, Josh and Anna Burnett, and spent Saturday repacking, relaxing, and finally flying back home. After 13 hours of travel, we made it back to a very warm New Orleans, and home to a kitty who was so excited to know that we hadn’t really abandoned her after all.
Overall this was a pretty awesome vacation – gorgeous scenery, nature experiences, good friends, city excursions, unique food, challenging situations, and great time together as a couple. But by the end, we were both looking forward to being back home. Sometimes you just need to get away from normal life long enough to realize how comforting the daily routine really is.