Days 9-13
 
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 Our Denali Pictures, Days 9-13

We drove the Denali "Highway" to Denali National Park. Here we took a Park tour to the very end of the road. Wildlife was abundant and views of Mt. McKinley, highest mountain in North America, were spectacular.
We drove the Denali "Highway" today and learned just because the map labels something as a highway doesn't mean it's paved. 131 miles of gravel road at 20 mph by surprise.
Mile 52.....here is a shot of Kathie at the point we realized the car rental contract prohibited use of the car on this highway, but we had come too far to turn back now.
We crossed the Susitna River and drove along the southern edge of the Alaska Range.
There are few businesses along this road. We stopped at Gracious House cafe in the middle of nowhere and took a break from the gravel and dust of the drive. The same couple has owned this remote business for 47 years. They must fly supplies from Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Taking another break along the way.
The beauty of the Alaska Range without Mike contaminating the picture.
Here is a shot for Mike Lee, our civil engineer friend. Let's turn the huge Nenana River Valley into an endless golf megaplex. Limitless courses laid end-to-end, 70 degrees, 24 hour sunlight, spectacular mountain view, open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Platinum Members of the club can custom design and build their own holes.
Mike looking for hole number one at his future golf
megaplex, a vision of golf courses as far as the eye can see.
Play golf in the glaciers, private airstrip, 24 hours a day under the midnight sun.
Finally! 131 miles and 8 hours  later, FREEWAY! (40mph)
Kathie at the Smith Family Mansion for the next two nights.
Awake at 4:30 a.m., breakfast 5:30 a.m., to catch a bus at 6:00 a.m. for a 6 hour ride to the end of the road in Denali National Park. Hopefully, we'll get good close-up views of Mt. McKinley, but it rained all night, and the weather does not look promising.
We saw a lot of wildlife (ground squirrel, hares, birds, beavers, fox w/babies, wolf, Dall sheep, caribou, and grizzlies w/babies). Most of it was too far away for pictures. Here's a moose. No charge!
Kathie spotted a Big Foot with a bald spot on the back of its head. The ranger she reported it to said it was the first one this season. Still no view of Mt. McKinley due to the low clouds.
Another spotting. Big Foot, unsuccessfully panning for gold while the mosquitoes drain him of blood.
The six hour drive through the park (with no view of Mt. McKinley) ended at Denali Backcountry Lodge. Cost per night only $400/person. Mosquitoes no charge.
Another shot of the lodge at the end of the road.
Big Foot and his new girlfriend who still has not had a view of Mt. McKinley.
We got a surprise chance to beat the 6-hour bus ride home. We took two empty seats at a bargain price on the Kantishna Air Taxi for a scenic flight home via the summit of Mt. McKinley. Good fortune, probably due to clean living on Mike's part. We couldn't pass it up.
We begin our climb to almost 12,000 feet to get over the clouds surrounding the mountains. Kathie is anxious, but Roger, the pilot, has flown for years with the park service.
We continue to climb as we look for a hole in the clouds.
Glacier-carved valleys are everywhere below. The view was unbelievable. The ride was smooth, and Kathie began to relax. She had the best seat on the plane, so she took most of these pictures.
The peaks are getting higher and steeper, and are covered with ice.
Getting close, still looking for a hole through the clouds.
Finally, above the clouds at nearly 12,000 ft.! Here is a view of the ice-covered summit of the South Peak of Mt. McKinley.
Mt. McKinley, highest point in North America, largest vertical drop of any mountain in the world, largest object on the planet, biggest thrill of the day, 20,320 ft.
We continue the flight through the mountains surrounding Mt. McKinley.
Back below the clouds, we fly over the glaciers and peaks.
A view along the bottom of the wing at the mountains and valleys below.
The Toklat River Valley comes into view as we descend.
We head north to the small airstrip near the park. A smooth ride with good views. Mt. McKinley spotting mission accomplished in MOST EXCELLENT fashion!
Tuesday morning we packed up for the short drive south to Denali State Park.
The road passed thru mountains and forests. Another morning in Paradise.
Here is a shot at one of the many pullouts Alaska provides to allow slow-moving vehicles like RV's to pull over so faster vehicles can pass. It is against the law for a slow-moving vehicle to impede more than five following vehicles. We use the pullouts frequently to take pictures and check out the scenery.
We took this shot of a hanging glacier at an unnamed pullout.
Shot of the alpine view from another pullout.
Mt. McKinley (also known as Denali) viewpoint near our home for the next three nights, the McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.
Here is a guy with the right idea. A big bay window on the rear of this trailer is aimed right at Mt. McKinley.
Mt. McKinley on a nice clear day over the Chulitna River.
Kathie reads the information signs at the viewpoint. Because Mt. McKinley is so high, it has its own weather system surrounding it. The peak is visible only about 25% of the time.
Kathie reads every sign at every viewpoint.
We have supper outside on the patio at the lodge with Mt. McKinley in the distance.
We got up this morning to a clear blue sky.
We decided to drive to Talkeentna about 50 miles south of the lodge toward Anchorage. Once there, we discovered we had cell phone service so we called our parents to check in. Here is a shot of Kathie talking to her mom and dad with Mt. McKinley in the background.
Mike called his dad.
We walked around the town of Talkeentna. It stretched out before us for two whole blocks. Talkeentna is the main staging area for McKinley climbers and the air services that support them.
The TV show "Northern Exposure" was modeled after the town of Talkeetna. It's full of imagination and the spirit of Alaska.
Kathie stands next to a sign that reads "Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeenta". It's a town with a sense of humor.
Flight-seeing is a big activity in Talkeetna. Our previous flight had only skirted past the north side of Mt. McKinley. We wanted to see the WHOLE thing, so we booked a "Grand Tour" with K2 Aviation.
This time we flew entirely around the mountain seeing a whole new view including huge glaciers, the canyons they carved, and the base camp used by climbers at 7,200 ft.
We also saw climbers camped at 10,000 ft and 18,000 ft. It normally takes about three weeks to climb McKinley. It's climbed in May and June while the snow is still stable.
A view thru the window on the other side of the plane, down the wing, looking at the incredibly rugged terrain.

Another shot of the ice-covered peaks as we fly thru the passes, circling Mt. McKinley.

In some spots the ice is so thick only the peaks of these huge mountains poke thru.
A final shot before we turn and head for home.
On the way out, we follow Ruth Glacier, thirty miles long, with ice 4,000 ft. thick.
Here's a shot of Ed, the pilot, next to the twin-engine plane that took us on our adventure.
Here is a shot of some of the other aircraft K2 uses for climber support. They land on the glaciers to deliver and remove climbers and supplies.
We arrived back at the lodge just before a spring thunderstorm hit. Lightning struck the grounds near one of the buildings, toppling a tree, but nobody was hurt.
Here's a shot taken in the lobby of the lodge at about midnight. Many people were still awake and prowling around. Body clocks don't mean much in the "Land of the Midnight Sun".
Another view of the lobby at midnight. Our body clocks don't seem to mean much either!
The following morning, our last day in the Denali area, we drove fifteen miles and hiked the trail around Byers Lake in Denali State Park. Thank God for insect repellent and bear bells.
Kathie looks across the lake at Mt. McKinley. Another sunny day in Alaska.
A footbridge crosses the outlet of the lake. The trail continues on around the lake. The total hike was ten miles round trip.
Here is the first in our soon-to-be-famous "Reflection" series, shortly to be available for sale on MikeandKathie.com.
It was hot in the afternoon sun, but the bugs forced us to wear long sleeves. We came here to escape the heat in Texas. Something must be wrong with our plan.

The second in our "Reflection" series. Many more to come.

"Reflection Number Three". Mt. McKinley is in the distance.

"Reflection Number Four". We digitally removed all the bugs from the entire "Reflection" series for your viewing comfort.

Taking a break in the heat at one of the remote campsites on the far side of the lake near the end of the trail.
Did you notice Mt. McKinley in the background?
Did you notice "Mr. Wonderful" in the foreground?

This may be the beginning of our "Kool Guy" series, also soon to be available for purchase on our website.

We closed out the day with a walk to the lodge and a view of Mt. McKinley out the picture window.

Mt. McKinley above EVERYTHING!

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