Flying to Denali
In the past, I heard from people who had visited Alaska that it can be difficult to get a clear view of the big mountain Denali. The lower portion might be easy to see, but the peak is often obscured by clouds. Some folks will wait for days and days to see it clear, others simply have to give up for lack of time. With three weeks in our schedule, I figured that I would have a fair shot at seeing it. Itwas more than fair to me.
Our first weekend in Anchorage, while exploring in Kincaid Park and downtown, we could see the mountain way off to the north. One sign said that it was 131 miles away. I didn’t know that I could see that far! But if you are as big as a mountain, you can proudly sit and be seen from a long ways off.
The next day, Greg’s cousin asked if we would like to go flying with them, to either the ski area called Girdwood, or up to Talkeetna. Greg jumped at the chance to go to Talkeetna. It is a small town east of Denali National Park, and it was a destination on my list. Little did I know that I would get to go there by plane rather than car. We took off about mid-day, and soon we were flying over the river, headed right towards the mountain. Once again we had sunshine and clear skies, and as we flew closer, the peak was definitely there for us to see.
We flew up Ruth Glacier, and Rob let Greg take over the plane as co-pilot. Heather and I kept snapping pictures, trying to get the next best one, unable to stop clicking shutters. We floated along as the snowy glacier below us grew narrower, and soon the edges of surrounding mountains were creeping up on us.
Rob advised Greg that we would not be able to actually go around the mountain, since the plane could not reach the elevation necessary. So he told him a good spot to turn around, and Greg carefully steered us back down the glacier bed. Then Rob took over, and as we went down, he decided to take a shortcut through a pass. It was breathtaking to be sneaking our way between jagged rock and snow, feeling like we could reach out and touch the mountain walls so close to the wings.
Rob skillfully guided us through, and soon we were headed the short distance to Talkeetna.
The plane landed on the strip in town, and Rob parked it near the other small aircraft. I’d never been to an airplane parking lot before! We took the short walk to town, and passed a couple who were just returning to the airport. It was like a Sunday afternoon destination, much the same way as taking a drive along the North Shore to a state park. We had lunch and explored some shops, watched as the train came to town, and then walked back for the return flight home to Anchorage.
When we landed in the city once again, I told Rob that, while my life did not pass before my eyes at anytime, I could easily say that the adventure was one of the most exhilarating things that I had ever experienced. We had seen moose from the air, a small caravan of snowmobiles, many isolated cabins on the river, and incredible views of Denali. Could it get much better than this?