After what looked this morning like a total washout, today turned out beautiful. Thankfully our Denali tour began at 4:00 PM when it was bright and sunny, instead of earlier. We really like the Denali Princess Lodge — our room is adorable and the entire complex is much more attractive.
We were booked for the Natural History Tour at Denali National Park. Our bus driver, Eric, was extremely informative and occasionally funny. Denali is the Athabascan name for Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, at 20,320 feet. The Indian word Denali means "high one." The park comprises over 6 million acres (about the size of New Hampshire), and is the only US National Park which was created to preserve wildlife. It was declared a national park in 1917 and is a true "wilderness" area. There is only one road and private vehicles are permitted only on the first 12 miles or so (the road is 93 miles long).
We saw a lot of wildlife, although we never saw bears or wolves, the species we most wanted to see. What we did see were several moose (including a cow with her calf), beavers, snoshoe hares, and ground squirrels. The scenery in the park was magnificent, although we were not able to see the park’s namesake (it was covered by clouds the entire time).
An Athabascan Indian presented her native culture’s view of Denali in a moving presentation. The tour also included a short film on the history of the park, and an interpretive program about the early days of the park. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience and were thankful our luck with weather continued for another day.