I was pretty bummed returning from my visit to Denali and not having seen the mountain. Fortunately, a friend had better luck and provided me with a photo of what I missed.
I read somewhere that the mountain is only visible one out of every three days or something like that. Denali's size and elevation cause it to create its own weather and it can be storming on the mountain even when its sunny and beautiful in Denali NP. The mere fact that a sighting of the elusive mountain is such a rare occurence for the visitor and that many of us return home without, make such visions, when they do occur, all the more magical.
Favorite thing: Many people travel to Denali on packaged tours that only have an overnight stay. Many visitors leave disappointed in not catching sight of the peak of Mt. McKinley or any of the other big mountains in the park. The weather is extremely unreliable and to be safe plan on spending as much time in the vicinity of the park as possible. Boredom is not an option since it is still possible to hike and view wildlife in the most inclement of weather.
The following text comes from the National Park Service's Denali National Park guide:
"Mount McKinley has been called the Alaskan landscape's most impressive feature. You may not see this great peak during your stay here, but it is there! Mount McKinley (Denali) is the highest mountain on the North American continent. Measured from the 2,000 foot lowlands near Wonder Lake to its summit, this mountain is considered by many to be the highest in the world. The vertical relief of 18,000 feet, greater even than that of Mount Everest, tops out at the snowy summit at 20,320 feet. McKinley's north summit is North America's second highest peak at 19,470 feet. Temperatures on the summit are severe even in summer. Winter lows at just 14,500 feet can plummet below -95 degrees F! During storms, winds can gust to more than 150 mph. Permanent snowfields cover more than 50% of the mountain and feed the many glaciers that surround its base. The ice is hundreds of feet thick in places."
Fondest memory: On the day when I took this photo, we were extremely lucky. This was my final trip of the 7 trips to Denali in 1996 and this was the best view I had gotten all summer. On most trips, we didn't see the mountain at all! Luckily, I had just bought myself a new camera. My old point and shoot broke in mid-summer and most of my photos from the entire summer weren't good quality. I bought myself a Canon Rebel with 300mm attachment in Anchorage. Sure it was a lot of money, but worth it! I just wish I had had this camera the entire summer. There were some really amazing animal encounters during the summer including a wolf strolling by our bus in Denali, orcas and grey whales in Kenai Fjords, and a close encounter with a marmot on a high ridge in Denali. All of these photos came out like crap, mainly because the camera I was using was a piece of junk. Get yourself a quality camera for Alaska! You won't regret it once you get your photos developed. If you can afford it, get a lense with even more than 300mm for those times when you have extra time to set up for a wildlife shot. A lens bigger than a handheld 400mm isn't practical though on the bus shuttle into the park. You will be competing for space at the windows with other eager photographer's. Make sure you bring A LOT of film and extra batteries. You always seem to need them when the best photo opportunities arise.
Favorite thing: Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet, looms in the distance. Of the nation's 20 highest peaks, 17 are in Alaska.
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