July 26, 2011 First Adventure in Denali National Park & Preserve
Denali National Park & Preserve
The other day I flew to Fairbanks, rented a car and drove to Denali National Park and Preserve. The drive was only about 2.5 hours long and Denali was very easy to find. The drive to Denali was beautiful and breathtaking, which made it hard to keep my eyes on the road. Denali village is a cluster of hotels, gift shops, and a few restaurants in about a 3-block area. The village is open from May until September and shuts down completely during the winter months. Nothing is open! I checked into my hotel, The Crow's Nest, and made my way to my cabin. Each of the rooms at the Crow's Nest is your own cabin; they were decent accommodations. I had to hurry as I had my first scheduled adventure shortly after I arrived. My first adventure I had booked was a helicopter tour of Denali!
I had never been in a helicopter and if you have followed my adventures in previous years, I am pretty uneasy when it dealing with heights! So I was really stepping out of my comfort zone here, but I thought the helicopter ride would be amazing way to see all of the sights around Denali. There were seats for 5 adults, 1 child, and the pilot. Luckily, there were only 4 other adults from Italy and myself on the flight (plus the pilot) and I got to ride upfront in the co-pilot seat! We put on our headsets, used so we could hear each other and the pilot talk, and was relaxed by the sounds of Enya and Frank Sinatra singing "Come Fly With Me". When we took off it was a very surreal feeling being lifted up and watching the ground fade away. He cruised at about 130mph and was anywhere between 200-1000 feet above the ground.
Remember how I thought the drive out to Denali was breathtaking? The drive wasn't even on the radar when compared to the absolute, majestic beauty I witnessed on the helicopter ride. My eyes were having a hard time to the shear surreal awesomeness of the flight.
Oh did I forget to mention that we landed on a glacier?!?! It was a perfect weather day, 75 and sunny (much different than in Barrow!). There were hardly any clouds in the sky and our pilot said we were in a treat as we were going to make a stop that they can only make about 2 times a month due to the weather (whether he was pulling my leg or not I didn't care, I felt lucky!) In the middle of the flight, the pilot (Nicco from Germany) hovered over the West Fork Glacier and landed the helicopter in the midst of several glacial pools on top of the glacier near Mount Debra. These pools were filled with the most brilliant blue water I have ever seen. We were given boots with better grip than our shoes so we could easily walk around the glacier. We spent approximately 15 minutes on the ground walking from pool to pool.
We took off again and buzzed some of the mountaintops, meaning we flew over the tops of the mountains really low (see the video below). Off in the distance we could see Mount McKinley, the highest peak in the U.S. (20,320 feet tall). The immense size of the mountain was palpable as Nicco informed us we were still over 85 miles away! After 1.5 hours Nicco guided us back to our starting point and gently touched down on the landing pad. What an amazing journey. I hope you enjoy the pictures and video!
Fact of the Day
Yesterday's Fact of the Day Answer: What are the big chunks of ice that fall off of a glacier called? Hint - it sounds like a baby farm animal being born… Calving!
Today's Fun Fact of the Day: If you cut Alaska in 1/2, Texas would still be the third largest state! Meaning that Alaska is over 2 times the size of Texas!
Inuit Word of the Day
Yesterday's Word: siqiniq = Sun Hint: I've been seeing a lot of this lately!!! Did you get it right?
Today's word: ikajunga - Hint: A good word to know if you are in distress!!! What is the word of the day?
Please take 2 seconds and reply with your guesses to the fact of the day or Inuit word of the day in the "Ask the Team" section link below: