After such an amazing trip to Katmai National Park, how could the week get any better??? The answer: the Denali Road Lottery!!!! What is this incredible event that deserves four exclamation marks you might ask? Every year Denali National Park and Preserve has a lottery to win one of 400 spots for four days at the end of the season to drive the 90 mile park road in your OWN vehicle (No BUS). Every year I pester every family member and friends to sign up. They say 1 in 7 tend to win the road lottery but our numbers have been about 1 in 30. That one person who won was Miss Hannah, Josh’s sister!
We have been fortunate enough to be tag alongs two years ago for the road lottery with this fun bunch of people! That year was the road lottery year of the bears! Bears were everywhere, far, close, really close, and epically awesome!
Last year we lucked out as well! I got an email saying that someone who won the lottery couldn’t go. I was the first one to call and the sweet lady deferred her win to us! It was a snowy, cold trip but fun nonetheless. The sheep were probably the main even last year.
This year was different, mostly because one of our family members actually won! We only had two days to relax after getting back from Katmai before the road lottery. I booked us a campsite for two nights at Riley Creek and a vehicle to fit eight adults. Some of you may be adding up the adults listed in the last blog and are only counting six adults… Another pretty amazing coincidence was that my great aunt and uncle were actually in Alaska! They were enjoying Alaska and western Canada and met us in Denali National Park! We knew it might be a tight squeeze but we hoped the National Park landscape and wildlife would help everyone forget about limited space inside the vehicle.
We rolled up to our campsite in our RV and giant eight seater. We set up a tent, one that didn’t leak, and headed to 49 State Brewery! We Cheers’d our beers and ate like rockstars! A great way to end the day!
We woke up bright and early to head out on the road! We stopped at the Wilderness Access Center (WAC) for some coffee for the last time in 2016. The first part of the road is a great habitat for moose but the first sight we had was of part of Denali! One of the most rare sightings in Denali National Park! About mile 15 we did come across a cow moose and a calf. At first we saw the cow moose crossing the road. We pulled up just close enough to get to see the moose when it decided to come back on the road. It was then that we saw the little hesitant calf who didn’t want to cross the road! We left the area because we didn’t want to stress out the family.
The next animal stop was for a whole bunch of ptarmigans! I have never seen SO many ptarmigan. It was a pretty awesome sight! After our first rest stop at Teklanika we got to see some dall sheep! I am a HUGE fan of the dall sheep! Dall sheep were the main reason Denal National Park and Preserve was founded.
We followed the winding dirt road down to Sable pass where we found our first bear! It was a beautiful grizzly bear on the side of a hill. We watched it mosey further and further down the hill. It got so close to the road that rangers asked everyone to get back in their cars. Most of the people listened but there were a few who decided they wanted to chance being mauled. When the bear crossed the road, we were fortunate to be facing the bear and we got to watch it! The rangers scared the bear and pretty much forced it down the hillside. I was not particularly fond of this decision – not for photo purposes – because you could tell it spooked and upset the bear. After all, this national park and preserve’s focus is to preserve the natural wilderness and wildlife. Either way the bear went scampering down the hillside and out of view.
We took in the views at polychrome pass. What was supposed to be a mostly cloudy and possibly rainy day turned into a mostly clear and sunny day. I was sure not complaining.
We skipped the Toklat rest stop and headed to a perfect spot to view Denali and eat lunch! Nothing like this view…
We saw another bear on our way to Eielson Visitor center but it was farther away than the first one. Some of our group went and watched the video they play there about climbing Denali, some of our group spent time reading the displays, and I snapped away at that beautiful white mountain! From Eielson we decided to head to Wonder Lake.
Along the way to Wonder Lake we peered out at Denali and the Alaska Range! The troops got a little tired on the way to Wonder Lake but quickly woke up when we spotted some moose very far away! We went to the north end of the lake and caught a little reflection in reflection pond.
It was a long way back full of more breathtaking scenery, wildlife, and laughs! We saw a sow and two cubs and a few other solo bears. It was a surreal sight seeing Denali in the rearview mirror getting smaller and smaller. After a long day we all sat around the campfire reminiscing over the days events.
The next day we said goodbye to my great aunt and uncle and returned back to Fairbanks. While Josh was at work, the rest of us got a little time to relax. It was such a great week that I know none of us will forget! I know I am still processing the photos and probably will be until they come back up to Alaska (I hope that is sometime again soon!)