I spent last week in Alaska!


This was a trip built around the Denali Road Lottery. From their website:

Denali National Park and Preserve is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. Travelers along it see the relatively low-elevation taiga forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America’s tallest peak, Denali, standing at 20,310 feet. Wild animals, large and small, roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages. Solitude, tranquility, and wilderness await

Each September the park hosts a four-day event called the Denali “Road Lottery.” During these four days, winners of a lottery drawing are given a chance to purchase a single, day-long permit, allowing them to drive as much of the Denali Park Road as weather allows.

My mother discovered this and was inspired. The whole family applied for the lottery and my sister won a spot, so we organized a trip to the frozen north.

I was a little slow in buying my plane tickets and by the time I did it was substantially cheaper to fly into Anchorage a day early, so I had an extra day to hang out in town. Anchorage is pretty cool! It has a burgeoning food and arts scene, as well as easy access to all sorts of trails and outdoorsyness. 85% of everything they consume is shipped in from out of state, but it’s also not suffering from an influx of tech workers and rapid gentrification, so prices were similar to what you would see in Seattle. I stayed in the Base Camp Anchorage Hostel, which I would highly recommend.


Sunset and Mt. Susitna (also known as the Sleeping Lady) from Anchorage’s Coastal Trail

I met up with my family and we drove north to Denali National Park, about 4 hours north of Anchorage. Along the way we stopped in Talkeetna, a cute little town somewhere between a hippie commune, a hipster hangout and a permanent arts fair. Autumn arrives early in Alaska, and the birch and aspen showing off their fall colors made for a gorgeous drive.

The next day we woke up bright and early, and hit the Denali Park Road right around sunrise. Almost immediately we were greeted by wildlife, moose and grizzly bears out in the morning chill. Later in the day we saw caribou, dall sheep and a single red squirrel, along with more moose and grizzlies.

Credit: Kevin McConnell
Credit: Kevin McConnell
Credit: Kevin McConnell

All three of the other men in the car had fancy cameras with big telephoto lenses, which was emasculating enough that I didn’t take many of my own pictures inside the park with my puny cellphone camera. These are from my cousin Kevin.

All in all I was very impressed with Alaska. I don’t think I could live there – the long, cold, dark winters are a little much – but I will definitely be back to visit some day.

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