By the time we got to Denali National Park, it was Labor Day. We spent the entire week here and watched the leaves literally changed colors right in front of our eyes. Where do we begin to talk about Denali? The tundra was in full autumn foliage with berry bushes, and we encountered most of the animals they mentioned in the park’s brochure. It was too splendid to describe with words or too expansive to capture on photos. Well, if you want to see the park beyond Savage River, you must get on to one of the shuttle buses. There are a few choices based on one’s time constrains and touring preferences. Check out the national park web site to find what is right for you. Or better yet, call them, they are very helpful. We took the Wonder Lake bus without a guide.
We camped at two different locations inside the park. First we stayed at Riley Creek just to clean up and get our stuff together. Then, we booked a three night stay at Teklanika Camp. The park will issue you a driving permit to Tek if you camp there 3 nights in a row. Along with the Tek Camp reservation you can also purchase a pass to ride the shuttle bus unlimited number of times to Wonder Lake (which is cheaper than the one time use bus ticket but only campers beyond the Savage River can use it). During our one week stay in early September, the Wonder Lake Camp was booked solid.
It was at Tek Camp when we saw our first northern lights. It was new moon, the sky was dark and surprisingly clear. It was raining just the day before. We saw it when we went to the outhouse in the middle of the night. The temperature was freezing, and we didn’t last long out there. Then, we got smarter the following night. First we positioned our car facing north. Second, we drank a lot of tea at dinner to make sure we will wake up in the middle of the night. Third, make a thermos of hot cocoa. Fourth, go to sleep early. Then, it happened not long after midnight. We ran inside the car with hot cocoa in hand and watched the nature’s light show for almost two hours. The green light appeared on and off. At one instance, the light shot up straight like a spot light, then slowly started running across the northern sky like the way they drawn the curtain across the stage. It was pure excitement for us. But mind you that it was a lame one according to locals. Oh yeah, we saw Mt. McKinley too.