Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


Savage River | Last Trip for 2012

There are many different shuttle bus options within Denali National Park.

Most, however, require quite the time commitment. We’re talking 12+ hours to go the full 92 miles out to Kantishna, with shorter journeys out to Wonder Lake or the Eielson Visitor Center taking 8+ hours.

Most of the time, I simply do not have it in me to sit on a bus for that long–even with the beautiful scenery surrounding me to pass the time.

Sure, I take at least 2-3 long trips into the park each season (OK, I only did 1 this summer, but who is counting?), however, the majority of my bus jaunts into the park are out to Savage River.

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Denali National Park

I keep referring to “the park” in blog and Facebook posts. It occurred to me that some of you may not know what I am talking about!

Allow me to fill you in…

I am living in a little town, Healy, Alaska, which has a population of about 1,000 people (probably near double that during the summer months with all the seasonal workers in the area). I live in the “Princess Homestead.” It is, essentially, dorm rooms. The building was actually used up in Prudhoe Bay to house the pipeline workers. Princess purchased it and it was shipped down in pieces on the rail. It’s an eyesore. There isn’t a better way to put it. It’s has a definite presence in little Healy. It is, for the most part, comfortable and more than enough to get me through the summer. Although, we are having a bit of a drinking water problem at the moment and must drink bottled water. Oh dear!

*The water issue has been resolved since I first starting writing this post a few days ago. Whew!

Healy, AK

Healy is located about 11 miles north of where I work, The Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge (owned by Princess Cruises). I am a Front Desk Supervisor this year (more on that to come, I am sure!).

Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge (DPWL)

Our lodge is the largest hotel in the state of Alaska and is the closest hotel to the Denali National Park and Preserve entrance (1 mile).

Denali National Park encompasses over 6 million acres of beautiful tundra, glaciers, snow-capped peaks, and of course, the highest point in North America, Mt. McKinley (or Denali, the native Athabaskan name and what most Alaskans call the mountain). It is also home to some pretty incredible wildlife. So far this season I have seen lots of moose (including some very tiny babies!), a sleeping grizzly bear, countless caribou, a black wolf (pretty rare sight), Dall sheep, a couple of porcupines, foxes, hares and lots of squirrels. I have never seen a Lynx. It’s one of my biggest must-sees of the summer (after the Northern Lights).

Denali only has one road, the 91-mile long “Park Road.” It starts at the George Parks Highway and terminates in Kantishna, an old gold-mining town. Only the first 15 miles of the road are paved. After that it’s narrow, cliff-hugging dirt.

The lonely Park Road

Words truly cannot describe the vastness and beauty of this place. The vistas are unlike anything I have ever seen before. The sheer size of the park coupled with the efforts of the National Park Service to keep the land as untouched as possible has resulted in an area so spectacular you’d have to see it to believe it!

Can you spot the sleeping caribou?

Horseshoe Lake

Savage River

Even in bad weather, Denali is simply stunning.

Up until a few weeks ago, Vince and I had only done short hikes near the park entrance and taken the free shuttle bus out to Savage River (only park tour buses can go further than the paved portions of the road). We decided that we’d like to get into the park more often and go further in, so we invested in the park’s “6-packs.” We get to go into the park as far as we want 6 times over the summer.

Hiking in the park on our day off

We already used our first ticket and went out to Wonder Lake (about mile 85). I have a dedicated post on this one coming soon.

There you have it. I basically live and work in one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. It’s tough sometimes, but I manage!