Our trip to Denali National Park was the highest point of our highlight-rich Alaska visit.
The full excursion included a campout along the way, a raft cruise on the Nenana River, and our amazing bus tour into the heart of the park. The photos on this page cover the scenic views we enjoyed in each of these segments, in more or less the order they were taken.
For more photos of Denali, see these related pages:
Our Denali excitement began at a scenic pullout on the highway as we approached the area.
We knew that it was possible we'd actually never get to see the peak of Mt. McKinley because of the clouds that often surround it.
But imagine the thrill of realizing that some of the masses we thought were white clouds in the distance were actually this amazing massif!
It so towers over the mountains around it that it almost seems unreal, especially at this distance. (Its elevation is 20,320 feet, but this is 18,000' above the surrounding lowlands.)*
First on our itinerary after arriving at the Park was to get our bus tickets for the following day.
Then came our raft trip. The Nenana River forms part of the eastern boundary of the Park, and is not under Park Service control. Commercial outfitters provide the rafting excursions.
This beautiful shot gives you an idea of the kind of scenery associated with the river (notice the rafts in the picture)...
...and here are some shots of a raft on the river...
As you can see in the photos of us on the "people" page, we were pretty bundled up for this cruise. That's because the water, being all snowmelt, was very cold. In going over the risks associated with the rafting, we were told that if you fell out of the boat, you might succumb to hyperthermia before you could reach the shore!
Below are some photos that I took of the second section of the raft trip that Sally and I didn't participate in. Hal, Henry, and Tootsie are in these photos, although they're not easy to find.
For a more close-up shots of us in the raft, see this "people" page.
On the left is a scenic shot of the river that I took. I don't know if the rafters in this shot are our group or not.
But for sure they're the ones 'way below here, since they're waving at me as they go by one of the impressive cliffs along the route.
As breathtaking as the views were Mt. McKinley from the highway, it was even more exciting to see it closer at hand.
Unfortunately, at the closest stop our bus made to the peak (the Eielson Visitor Center), the clouds mostly obscured it. But Henry was able to get some good shots of intermittently...
"From within its vapors, the mountain can emerge as swiftly as it disappeared, and when it is out only the distant curve of the earth can reduce its dominance, for it is the most arresting sight from forty million acres around.
"The Alaska Range elevates with a rapidity rare in the world. Its top is about two-thirds as high as the top of the Himalayas, but the Himalayan uplift is broad and extensive. If you were looking toward Mount Everest from forty miles away, you would lift your gaze only slightly to note the highest in a sea of peaks. Forty miles from McKinley you can stand at a bench mark of three hundred and climb with your eyes the other twenty thousand feet.
"The difference—between your altitude near sea level and the height of that flying white mountain—is much too great to be merely overwhelming. The mountain is a sky of rock, seemingly all above you, looming. Until it takes itself away, you watch it as you might watch a hearth fire or a show in color of aurorean light."