Alaska was always on my bucket list so last fall I gathered 4 other friends and we headed to Denali. Denali National Park is about 5 hours north of Anchorage. The original name of the park was Mount McKinley National Park, it was changed to Denali in 1980 after a local native Americans word that means “the high one”.
Denali has one road that goes into the park. About 15 miles in is the last campsite called Teklanika which is the furthest that private vehicles can go. There are shuttle buses that carry visitors the rest of the way (74 miles) into the park just past Wonder Lake to Katishna. There are two types of shuttles, buses that carry day visitors and buses that carry campers. When you purchase a bus pass you can jump off at any of the many stops along the way and jump back on the next bus that comes along. They run at regullar intervals throughout the day.
Along the way the bus driver will stop anytime wildlife is spotted. In our day trip we saw a lot of great wildlife, bears, moose, dall sheep, artic foxes, caribou, etc. The trip from the entrance of the camp or Teklanika to the end of the road at Katishna will take a full day.
You should make the decision sometime during your trek if you want to stop at Eielson Vistor Center or some other stop before the end of the road. The road is a dirt road and bus travel is bumpy and slow. My suggestion is not to got to Katishna or Wonder Lake if you cannot see Mt. McKinley from the Eielson Center. There is not much to see in Katishna except for xxxxxxxx frontier house and trying to reach Katishna will take about 2 more hours in and out, which cuts out any chance of doing any hiking around the bus stops.
There are three high end lodges in Katishna, the Katishna Road House,xxxxx,xxxxx. They are very expensive, (xxx per night) and if it fits in the budget than go for it. You take a different shuttle if you want to stay in one of the Katishna lodges.
We decided to rent two RV’s and camp at Teklanika and were thrilled with our experience. Affter doing my research if found that Great Alaskan Holidays is the king in the industry. They have a great reputation for having good vehicles, good service and no hidden charges. To rent a 32′ RV for a week in the middle of the summer for about $1600 plus 17 cents a mile for a week rental. One issue is that Great Alaskan will not let you reserve an RV for less than a week until you are within 30 days.
For our situation, spliting the rental 3 or 4 ways made this economical and a bit of luxury, ($1600 + about $100 for milage + $200 for gas) came out to $67 per person per day for transportation and lodging ($1900/7 days/4 people). It was my first time RVing and I loved it. With the training session that GAH gave us, you can pick up the nuiances of maintenance with an RV.
After the Danali portion of our trip we headed to the Kenai Peninsula. We had chosen a really cool lodge called the Anglers Lodge. The Anglers is run by a husband wife team, Jerry and xxxxxx. We were able to take advantage of thier “stimulus package”, $1400 for four nights, including all meals, room and three fishing trips. One salmon fishing the Kenai River, one fly-in salmon fishing trip and a third trip fishing for Halibut.
What made Anglers special was Marlene’s cooking, a beautiful spot on the Kenai River (there are not many lodges right on the river) and the magic of sitting around a bonfire telling lies.
Going to Alaska in late August/early September had it’s pros and cons. It was nice because it was a little cooler, fewer misquitos and tourists, and lower costs for the RV’s and Anglers. The cons were that since it was late in the season the King Salmon, and xxx Salmon were out of season and the Coho Salmon was almost done. So the quality of the salmon is not as good as earlier in the season. We found ourselves culling salmon that we caught that were too far gone to keep. The only other con was that because it was the end of the season we found our guide and Jerry had a very short string and little patientence for novice fisherman.
Other than that we
For a day by day blog postings of our Alaskan experience go to www.globetrottinginstyle.com