Porcupyn's Blog

July 9, 2017

Alaska Trip – Day 6

Filed under: Family,Travel — Porcupyn @ 8:24 pm

Before I get started, a little perspective on the accommodations. As we were five of us, when I first started looking for accommodation, Carlo Creek Cabins came up as a good fit both for location and price. However, the bigger cabins that could accommodate a group of five were unavailable. As a result, I got two cabins – one for three and the other for two of us. When we reached at night, we were surprised to be greeted by a person who was from just up the road (OK, not literally) from us – in Tallahassee, FL. It was a common theme – most folks in the hospitality industry that we met were there just for the summer – except for our Airbnb hosts in Palmer who moved there from Idaho a while back. When we looked at the cabins in the evening when we landed there, in the rain, we were a bit pessimistic about liking the place – especially with common bathrooms situated outside! I was, as always, apprehensive about the presence (though uncommon) of bears in the area! But it turned out to be just fine. I, for one, loved the area. It is close enough to Denali and the rates are decent for the area for sure. I wish we had stayed there all through our Denali visit. To be honest, the common bathrooms that I had been worried about were actually a boon as all of us could use them at the same time – everyone else had either already left by the time we were ready to use the bathrooms, or they were all yet to wake up!

Next, about the transportation within Denali. Private cars were not allowed past a certain point in the National Park, and we were to be in the area for the most part of three full days. We were not planning to get the Tour bus tickets as I had researched that the shuttle buses can get us all the way into the park and the tour bus tickets were a) more expensive and b) liable to be sold out way in advance. When I then learned that there is an option to three shuttle bus tickets for the price of two, I decided that that would be the way to go. We would just get three days of tickets to an area reasonably within the park, and on the day that we had good visibility and weather, we would purchase the add-on option to go all in.

Now, some of this information is not really spelled out in either the Denali National Park website nor in the websites you get redirected to (or it is, I missed it entirely!!): when you purchase your shuttle bus ticket, you are coupled to a specific shuttle bus that goes to a specific point in the park. You could buy a ticket up to the Toklat River on, say, the 8:30 am shuttle bus that goes to Eielson Visitor Center. That means that you cannot take a shuttle bus that departs at any other time, unless of course, that bus has availability. If you decide to get down at an intermediate stop, say, Teklanika Campground, your further journey to Toklat can continue only if and when a bus comes from the Wilderness Access Center (the WAC, or the main visitor area to board the bus) that is going further into the park. We were advised to stay in the shuttle until our destination – it would be easier to find a bus returning to the WAC that had extra space than it would be to find out going into the park. That said, you are free to get down at any of the intermediate stops and spend as much time as you feel like doing – as long as you are aware that there was a chance that you might not get all the way to your original destination.

I decided to get the three-for-two tickets upto the Eielson Visitor Center, as there was the option of purchasing a ticket from there all the way into the park. Besides, at this location, there is enough space to sit, eat, drink water, use the restroom etc. So, I thought that should we need to split up for whatever reason, those of us who are tired or otherwise don’t want to go further could wait for the others to go (either further on the bus or on a hike) and return. When purchasing the tickets, you need to specify the timings as well. I used 8:30 am for the first day, 10:30 am for the second day and 9:00 am for the third day (of course, later on I realized that it would be a haul to make it to the 9:00 am departure if coming from Talkeetna!!). That way, I hoped that either on the first or the third day, we could venture further than Eielson – it was out of the question for the second day unless we were prepared to return late in the night (and remember, this is the day we were moving our base from Denali to Talkeetna). There is still more to come on this point, but that will come later 🙂

Eielson Visitor Center is located about 60 miles from the WAC, and is one of two places in the park where you can get water to drink IIRC. The shuttle bus takes about four hours one way to get to this point. Intermediate halts occur every 90 minutes, give or take a few minutes, for folks to get out and use the restrooms and take photos. I had been very antsy about this as well, for fear of wildlife, but was assured that if wildlife was spotted close to the road, the bus drivers are instructed not to let people out of the bus at the stop.

Be that as it may, we were up early in the morning and quickly got ready by about 7:15 am. By now, the sky was much clearer than it was last night. Looking up – in certain directions, one could see blue sky with not many clouds while in other directions, there were clouds. But it was much better than last night. Here is a comparison:

Last night as we were driving to the cabins

Last night as we were driving to the cabins

This morning while driving to Denali from the cabins

This morning while driving to Denali from the cabins

We got to the WAC by about 7:45 and got our tickets ratified and got in line for the bus.

While waiting in line, we had our first view of the local wildlife

While waiting in line, we had our first view of the local wildlife

As Hindus, per our religion, one of our gods is Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. His vehicle of choice is the puny mouse. Looking at the animal in front of us on the deck of the WAC, I commented that if the mount is here, surely the god must be around the corner, removing our obstacles? 🙂

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