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home : sports : regional August 20, 2014

Gary Moore: Denali Experience Will Be Long Remembered
Outdoors Writer

Denali, America's highest peak, is one of those places everyone should experience. It is on par with the Grand Canyon as one of the world's great natural treasures.

Linda and I visited Denali for three days in September. It was our second trip and most memorable thanks to a break in the weather that allowed for a flight around the mountain and a guided trip into the far interior.

We had arranged for a flightseeing tour around Denali operated by Fly Denali,, out of Healy River. The notorious Denali weather cleared enough for our flight late one afternoon and we took off in a Piper Navajo piloted by Travis Dalke, a Fairfax, Vt., native.

For an hour and a half he flew us around Denali at elevations of up to 21,000 feet where we had to don oxygen masks. The summit was in the clouds, but Travis did his best to get us glimpses of the summit as he found holes in the clouds, all the while telling us what we were looking at, what glacier we were over and the various routes climbers take to reach the summit.

During the flight to and from Denali Travis expertly maneuvered the aircraft to give us the best views of Dall sheep, slowly creeping glaciers, and countless peaks of the six million acre Denali National Park and Preserve.

Linda and I stayed at the McKinley Chalet Resort,, near the park entrance. The resort overlooks the Nenana River and the Alaska Railroad backdropped by the peaks of Denali. We were mesmerized by views of the river, the railroad and the mountains from the comfy lounge where we ate our meals and sipped wine.

A 92-mile road is the only access though the huge park. Private vehicles are allowed only as far as the Savage River at mile 15. Tour buses driven by naturalists take visitors the rest of the way.

Auto802 Flashing Cars

We took a day long photography tour arranged for members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. The driver was a well versed naturalist who educated us about the history of the park, its wildlife and the people who live and work in that part of Alaska. It was obvious he loved Denali and his job and he made our trip special.

We got to see grizzly bears, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, trumpeter swans and golden eagles. Our driver also stopped to point out the place where a hiker had been killed by a grizzly a short time before and which we had all heard about.

We were allowed off the bus only at designated spots such as the Toklat River Contact Station at mile 53 or the Eielson Visitor Center at mile 66. The reason is to keep wildlife wild. Every attempt is made to prevent human contact with wildlife so that the animals do not become acclimated to humans.

Shooting photos from the open windows of the bus was no problem as the driver would stop whenever asked.

Kantishna, with a summer population of 135, is at the end of the road at mile 92. It and Wonder Lake had been our destination, but we ran out of time and turned around at mile 80. The rain and snow had started to fall and we had a long slow ride over a winding dirt road with shear drops along the way to navigate back to the entrance before the snow made the road too dangerous.

On the way back, we stopped to watch three golden eagles being harassed by a magpie. That was an experience. The little magpie was driving the big eagles away from a nest we assumed. For several minutes we watched as the magpie swooped down and around the eagles, harassing them until they flew off. It was a true David and Goliath encounter.

The next morning we headed south to Anchorage and the airport for our return home. Our third Alaska trip had been as wonderful as the previous ones and the time in Denali would be long remembered.

The park entrance is located along the George Parks Highway, 120 miles south of Fairbanks and 237 miles north of Anchorage. Most visitors arrive by car or tour bus but the Alaska Railroad is a good alternative as it offers daily service during the summer season.

You can plan your own trip to Denali going to, writing to Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99775 or calling 907-683-2294.

Bits and Pieces

Mark Breen reports in the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium's Skywatch Almanac that on Feb. 22, 1981 during: "The warmest February on record; thermometers reached 62 degrees in Enosburg Falls and 63 in Lancaster, N.H."

It was far different on Feb. 24, 1914 when: "The coldest weather of the winter waited until this date in 1914, when the mercury fell to -18 in Burlington. Farther east it was 33 below zero in St. Johnsbury."


The storm on Feb. 8-9 forced the postponement of the Let's Go Ice Fishing workshop sponsored by the N.H. Fish & Game Department and UNH Cooperative Extension. It has been rescheduled for March 2. Pre-registration is required for this free introduction to ice fishing session for youth. Call 603-788-4961 to sign up. To learn more go to:


The 30th annual Springfield Sportsmen's Show runs Feb. 21-24 at the "Big E" in West Springfield, Mass. This is a very big show with hundreds of booths, exhibits and seminars. Hours are Thursday 3-9, Friday 12-8, Saturday 9-7 and Sunday 10-5. You can take a look at what will be there by going to

Syndicated columnist Gary W. Moore may be reached by e-mail at or at Box 454, Bradford, VT 05033.

© 2013 Gary W. Moore

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