Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Denali National Park

DENALI NATIONAL PARK (In part from Trailer Life Magazine)

By Understanding the Restrictions, RV Users Can Maximize Their Explorations of this Park’s Unparalleled Natural Wonders

©Bert Gildart In Alaska, in Denali National Park, on the night of June 21—the summer solstice—the sun dips to its lowest point about 1 a.m. and then rises again about 20 minutes later. Light, of course, is most dramatic around the time of sunset and sunrise, and that evening, I set out from a campsite to film the majesty of Mount McKinley. Mosquitoes were thick, and when I struck out over the muskeg, swarms of vicious demonic bugs rose with each footfall and descended with a vengeance.

Mosquito Relief

Mosquito Relief

Alaska hosts 20-some different species of mosquitoes, and that night every single last species (please don’t doubt me!) attacked. In my crazed state of mind, these mosquitoes seemed birdlike in size prompting me to recall the empirical observations of one noted naturalist who maintains that your average Alaskan-male mosquito “can stand flatfooted and kiss a turkey.”

On another more sober occasion, this same naturalist said that at the peak of mosquito season the hordes could suck a quart of blood a day from a caribou (and, by inference, from me!). Still, I hurried on, reaching a point I had scoped out earlier in the day. Here, a blessed breeze was blowing, enough so that many of the mosquitoes were knocked down—allowing sanity to return. Hurriedly I set up my tripod, and though a number of persistent bugs swarmed not only in my face but also in front of the lens, I controlled the situation by waving my hands just before clicking the shutter. To make sure that my long hike would not be in vain, I took many insurance shots. After all, here was THE MOUNTAIN, as some proclaim in reverential terms. But the bugs were such a distraction that I couldn’t linger, fully understanding why criminals who have escaped to the tundra grow frantic before the onslaught of winged-demons and happily surrender. That night I returned to the protective shroud offered by my tent; next day, I surrendered to the comforts of my trailer, and did so with alacrity.

Denali  reflections

Denali Reflections

Without qualification, RV travelers to Alaska have an advantage over other forms of exploration, and over the years, I have driven the ALCAN and visited the park many times, progressing from tent camper, camper van to Airstream travel trailer. With but one exception, we’ve always found ourselves waiting out adverse conditions—or spending a day or two retreating from a swell of mosquitoes, obsessed with ways to cope (more on that later). Nevertheless, moody—even contentious—Denali has never disappointed, for in between spates with mosquitoes, and dark days of rain, there have always been visits with wildlife enjoyed nowhere else in the world. And, finally, of course, there had been THE MOUNTAIN, and when it did come out from behind clouds, sometimes the occasion could be so moving that it seemed to affect our very souls.

alcan highway

Alcan Highway

Denali National Park is best known for the 20,320-foot peak known as Mount McKinley. It is the tallest mountain in all of North America and is the flagship of the Alaskan range. Appropriately, Alaskan Natives call it “The High One.” Certainly, the mountain provided the major reason that in 1917 Congress established the park then know as McKinley National Park.

Since that time McKinley has evolved in both size and name. Originally, it was named for a president who never set foot in Alaska. But in 1980 Congress signed into law the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The act set aside approximately 100 million acres of land and resources for enduring protection throughout Alaska. Simultaneously, Congress tripled the size of the park to 6 million acres and renamed it Denali National Park and Preserve.

dall sheep polychrome pass

Dall Sheep Polychrome Pass

Camping and travel in the park have also evolved. Once, visitors could drive all the way to Wonder Lake, a distance of 85 miles. But as the number of visitors grew, in 1972 the park implemented controls to protect the resource. Protection came in the form of the shuttle bus, which, today, provides transportation past popular Polychrome Pass (with its many Dall sheep), and, then, all the way to Wonder Lake where views of Mount McKinley can be out of this world.

Denali shuttle busses

Denali Shuttle Busses

Today, visitors who arrive in their RVs have several options. If there’s a campsite available, you can drive to the visitor center, buy an appropriate pass, travel to the Savage River checkpoint, show your pass to continue, and then drive on another 15 miles to Teklanika Campground. Because of wolf activity, you must have a hard-sided camper, and, once there, you cannot move your trailer or motorhome until you leave for good. Because the campsite is more remote and more central to the park’s interior, many opt for Teklanika, and then travel throughout by shuttle bus…

RV ADVENTURE Though my story for Trailer Life continues, I hope what I’ve provided will whet your appetite to embark on a trip to Alaska and to Denali. It’s the adventure of a life and it may one of the more exciting uses anyone can make of their RV.

But how about mosquitoes. Yes, you can control them while afield, and can do so fairly effectively with liberal applications of Deets. You can also control them in your RV.

Start by patching up holes in your screen door before leaving home. Then, check into virtually any grocery store along the ALCAN and ask for a Pic. Pics are coils that burn, and although they create a slightly acrid smoke, the coil is lethal to mosquitoes. Burn one well before bedtime to make sure you’ve killed every last one of the winged demons, for invariably, several will have winged into your camper as you open and close the door. If you don’t burn a Pic, I can guarantee you’ll hear their infuriating buzz in the wee hours of the morning. Believe me, the sound will awaken you—and you’ll start swinging madly.

One Response to “Denali National Park”

  1. Pakboats Serve the "Minimalist" Approach of this Airstream Couple | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] they’re on the ALCAN , and they plan to visit a whole host of places in Alaska to include Denali National Park . They love kayaking, and when they originally sat down to line out their year, they were [...]