When I was on my flight direction Anchorage I had no clue what I was going to do. I had no plan, no accommodation. Only a plane ticket and a rental car. The greatness of this massive piece of land made me curious and anxious at the same time.
Once I got on board of my flight I tried to close my eyes immediately and catch some sleep. Not much later a mother with a little kid on her lap comes sits next to me. The kid is screaming for dear life and kicks me the first hour of the flight but finds peace eventually. In the meantime the guy in the seat in front of me tilted his chair all the way. I need some sleep !
A few hours later we start our descend into Anchorage.
By now it’s past midnight and most shops are closed already and the car rental office only opens in four hours so I got some time to kill before I can start my journey. These are the cons of a cheap ticket but all worth it. Luckily Anchorage airport has free WIFI and pretty comfy seats to get some sleep.
I close my eyes for a bit and to my pleasant surprise I wake up a couple hours later. I am heading downstairs and pick up the rental and start my drive to Denali National Park.
Once I arrive there I buy myself a ticket for the Shuttle Bus to Wonder Lake the next day. This 11 hour drive gives you a good chance to spot some wildlife and is your only way to get this deep into the park (with a motorized vehicle).
Now I still need a place to sleep for the night.
My travel guide recommends the Denali Morning Hostel nearby the park.
Once I arrive there I ring the bell but there is no one around. I notice a sign that says ‘Come look for us in the back’.
I follow the instructions but all I can find are a death silence and a tree filled with shoes.
When I return to the front office I see another guy looking for a way to check in. Not much later the receptionist is arriving with a van filled with guests who came back from the park.
I check in. Shower. Eat a cup of noodles and drag myself to bed at 7.49 PM …
Tomorrow will be a long day and I have to get up around 4 AM for the tour. Once I’m in bed I start noticing how quickly the temperature drops here once the sun is gone.
My alarm goes off and I started smiling as I was really excited for this tour. I felt well rested thanks to going to bed so early last night. I try to put my clothes on in silence and not wake up my roommates. It is freezing cold outside.
I get to my car and drive to the parking lot where the shuttle bus departs from. I booked a seat on the earliest bus of the day so I am back at a descent hour. As soon as we leave the sun starts to rise and we spot our first animals. A herd of moose cross the road like a New Yorker in Manhattan. This makes you realize that the animals rule the park and we are simply visitors.
Further down the road we also spot bighorn sheep, bears, caribous and a coyote. The bus drive takes you through some jaw dropping parts of Alaska and gives you an idea of how huge this Last Frontier is.
The weather is not bad at all but unfortunately not good enough to see Mount McKinley. The highest mountains of the USA is wrapped up in a bunch of clouds today.
A little after 5 PM the bus arrives back at the parking lot and I have still time to drive to Seward, a little town in the south of Alaska.
On my way I make a stop at the Alaska Veterans Memorial and a ranger walks up to me and asks me if I am planning to spend the night here. Knowing it is illegal to do so I told him I was on my way to Seward but he shakes his head is disbelief. I get confused and I probably look dead tired from the last couple days of intensive traveling. The confusion is complete when he asks me if I am under the influence but I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol in days. I have no clue what he is after but this is just plain awkward.
I get back into my car and noticed the ranger followed me. I started to get nervous and agitated at the same time. What is his problem ? Half an hour later he gives up and turns around.
That evening I keep driving until midnight and decide it would be better to get some sleep for a few hours. The next morning I would drive along one of the most scenic routes of Alaska, the Turnagain Arm.