6.2 million acres of beauty in Denali

image939630657.jpgOur long weekend trip from Washington DC to Alaska started on June 30th. I was happy that my friend Beth was on board with a 4 day trip to “The Last Frontier.” We arrived in Anchorage around 11PM on the 30th, not that you could tell with the sun shining bright. I forgot how beautiful the summer’s are in Alaska courtesy of the midnight sun. The 11 hour journey left us un-entertained by our extremely chatty taxi cab driver upon arrival. We checked into the Sheraton downtown and got some much needed sleep. The next morning we filled up on the fantastic breakfast buffet at the hotel, picked up our rental car and hit the road.

We drove from Anchorage to Denali National Park, a 239 mile trip all on one road so you can’t get lost. Along the way we passed through Wasilla and reconfirmed that you cannot see Russia (sorry Palin). We got excited when passed the “entering Denali Park” sign but realized we still had about 100 miles to go. The first question we wanted answered was “how big is this place?” Denali National Park is 6.2 million acres filled with mountains, wildlife, rivers, lakes, trees, trees and more trees. Around every turn was another scenic view and Beth attempted to capture several of those shots through the bug splattered windshield.

We finally arrived at the McKinley Chalet Resort and checked in to our fabulous river facing room in the Cottonwood Lodge. If you ever stay there ask for an odd numbered room in Cottonwood. After our brief photo shoot on our balcony, we had a tasty spinach salad and a few tastes of Alaskan brew across the street at Prospectors Pizzeria. They have 49 beers on tap including some Belgian, Irish, Canadian and local ales.

At the park that day we took the bus to the Savage loop and hiked around the river. It’s a nice 2 mile loop and we also hiked up to the overlook for a view of Denali. We had dinner at the hotel and got our wild Alaskan salmon and halibut fix…so delicious! Then we went to check out a live band at The Bake, a popular spot for the locals.
We only needed 4-5 hours of sleep and then we were back in the park to hike down to Horseshoe Lake and then up to Mt Healy Overlook. As you walk around Denali park you can’t help but realize how big and beautiful this world is and how important it is to step away from the noise of life and embrace peace and tranquility. Feeling invigorated and refreshed we left the park, had a crazy delicious pizza from our favorite spot and then headed back to Anchorage.
That night we had dinner at Orso. Our dinners were both amazing. My petite filet topped with a camembert type cheese sitting on polenta in a balsamic reduction with grilled apricots, was a work of art. Beth had a mouth watering mushroom encrusted wild king salmon. We turned in early that night because our train for Seward left at 6AM.

Today we are on the Alaskan railroad heading to Seward to take a glacier and wildlife cruise. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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