Day 20, Tuesday, 5/8/18
5418.4 miles
Denali National Park, Alaska

We woke up to cloudy weather after a nice night by the lake. After a good breakfast, it was off to
Denali National Park. Once out of Wasilla, the ride north was, as usual, quite spectacular. Somewhere near Talkeetna, we caught a glimpse of Denali. It's BIG! Alpine tundra flanked by mountains of the Alaska Range. Some of the plains leading to the park had snow machine tracks. It looked like fun.

Tundra Playground
Snow Bike
Paul, the Call of the Wild!

It's Still Winter!
We stopped at a turn-off with a distant view to Denali. The clouds had come in and the big one wasn't visible.

Arriving at the park, we grabbed a spot at Riley Creek Campground. Until sometime near the 15th, sites are free, first come, first served. At this time of year the US park sites, in contrast to the Canadian park sites, didn't have heated bathrooms with running water and hot showers. Outhouse style toilets only. However, can't argue with the price!

We put a water bottle on a picnic table and a chair in the parking spot to reserve the site and drove off to find the park road. It runs about 90 miles and is usually open to any vehicle up to mile 15, Savage River. The road after that is open only to park buses. In the winter, weather permitting, the road is open to any vehicle to mile 30. And that was the case when we arrived. The 30 mile point overlooks the Teklanika river.

Between Savage River and Teklanika, we started seeing the North Peak of Denali.

Ice Princess
There's still a lot of snow on the park road!

A few miles before we got to the Teklanika overlook, we stopped to watch some caribou in the river valley. There were two young men from Anchorage who were also looking for wildlife. Along the way, we spotted ptarmigans, hawks magpies, rabbits, the ubiquitous arctic squirrel and seagulls. (The gulls were hanging out at Savage River.) We later heard that there was a grizzly roaming near the top.

Squirrel, 'where moose?'
After living in Maine for over 35 years and seeing only one Moose, Chris finally saw a moose! This cinnamon brown  moose was pregnant and browsing a few hundred feet from us. She has a one year old.

Full in the Belly
Moose, 'where squirrel?'

The landscape was peppered with distant mountains, snow fields and tundra as far as the eye could see. Advantages of getting here before the season opens: the campsites are free, the park road is open to mile 30, very few people. The buses will start to arrive this weekend.

The park has a pack of huskies that they use to travel in the winter. Coming back from the 30 mile point, we met a woman who was taking one of them for a walk. Later we saw a trainer on a bike, with 2 leads. The mother on one, baby on the other. Mother was teaching her baby to mush!! Almost a lost art. Very few teams left.

Back at the campsite, we cooked a hearty chicken dinner. It was pretty cold and would get down below freezing in the AM. 

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