The Bus Ride Through Denali

Yesterday’s schedule was a bus ride through Denali. It had been on the calendar from Day 1 and something we were looking forward to until the details were given to us. We were expected to load the bus at 6am…6am? Okay, I don’t do mornings well but I can do them, on occasion. I figured this was as good an occasion as any. Then item number two on the list was, We expect to return between 7-8pm. OMG, 13 to 14 hours on a bus? A school type bus no less though the seats were slightly upgraded and there was plenty of leg room.

We pack our backpack with plenty of snacks and water bottles, set the alarm for 4:45 (I tried to set the alarm but couldn’t manage to change the setting…took that as a sign. Richard, however, managed to figure it out.), and went to bed about 10pm. Now the thing about setting an alarm is that I don’t sleep well. Always afraid I’ll sleep through it and wake every hour to make sure I hadn’t so it is not a very restful sleep. Giving up at 4:30 I got up and shut off the alarm. I also don’t drink caffeine so I can’t look forward to a buzz. It is what it is upon rising and there is a reason my tea cup says, “I don’t do mornings.”

It had been drizzling since the night before along with a few downpours so the morning was cold, grey and wet. The morning temp at 6am was 51º. There are 42 of us in the group but only 35 got on the bus. What did they know? 😉

The bus driver, David, was a young man who came to Alaska on a Princess cruise 8 years ago. He is originally from Utah. While on the cruise he did the land tour and fell in love not only with Alaska but more specifically Denali Nat’l Park. It took him about a year to make his way back here. He work in a resort washing dishes for 4 years and took courses about the area and has been driving the bus now for 4 years. David was very well informed and quite entertaining at times with his jokes and stories. Our bus was one of the few, and take my word the narrow road is chock full of buses, that goes the entire distance (91 miles, one way).

We did stop about every two hours to stretch and potty. At the halfway point we had hot chocolate, cider, tea, or coffee. Plus there were sodas and bottled water and even snacks and cookies. David claimed he had made the cookies but I grew a little suspicious when brownies were loaded for the return trip…no way he had time to make those during our lunch break. 😉 Lunch was at one of the Lodges at the end of the road and was an all-you-can-eat sandwich buffet. Luckily they also had salads and hummus. Unfortunately the soup was beef and barley.

The Park is absolutely amazing! We finally saw Grizzly Bears!! There were five of them visible from the bus within 5 minutes travel time. Also saw quite a few caribou and even a bull moose! It was overcast or raining the entire day so there was no visual of Mt McKinley but we had viewed it on the way from Chicken to Tok.

Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity and while not one I am ever likely to repeat it is a definite must do if you ever find your self in Alaska!

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