We spent Day Five with our final hike in Denali National Park. The rain had passed over and the day was beautiful and warm for Alaska. We said farewell to our friends at RaftDenali and our cabin over the river. We then went to the Park with the intention of hiking the Savage River trail. However, the trail was closed due to an aggressive Grizzly Bear. We therefore went to Plan B and did the more challenging Mount Healy trail. It proved a wonderful move for the quintessential Denali hike.
The Savage River trail was closed due to the aggression of a juvenile male Grizzly bear having menaced a hiker at the trailhead earlier. The bear charged and the hiker panicked and dropped her backpack. The bear bit and scratched the woman then had a lunch and two cokes. That is enough to condition a juvenile bear to seek other backpacks. The rangers try to negative condition the bear to change his habits by shooting him with rubber bullets and bean bags. Unfortunately, this was a repeat offense for this bear so the word was that the rangers were going to put the bear down.
Accordingly, we shifted over the Mount Healy hike which is quite strenuous. The hike takes you up a steep mountain. When we started the hike, we came upon a huge moose cow with her young moose in tow. That can be a particularly dangerous situation since more people are injured by moose in Alaska than by bears. We kept our distance but enjoyed watching them. We then tackled the hike.
The hike is quite challenging, particularly at the end. The views however are spectacular. This is one of the highest points in the area. The final rock scramble is very steep and takes considerable caution. Once on the summit, Jack and I decided to push off trail on the ridge line to go higher. We proceeded to climb a series of peaks until we reached the end. It was very difficult and the long hike back to the trail was very demanding. However, the views made it all worth it. This park is so immense and you need to get up high upon a mountain to appreciate its size.
We finished at 4:30 pm and stopped outside the park for a bite to eat. We had been eating close to RaftDenali at Bake Salmon, a restaurant and bar with a wide array of dishes. The salmon is quite good and I also have a tasty Elk burger. I also had a good Bloody Mary. However, Bake Salmon is seriously overpriced for the average quality of the food. The desserts are disappointing and many of the dishes are a bit stingy. It is not a bad place but, with $26 entrees (there are burgers and other dishes for less), it is not worth the money. A much better bet is Prospectors just down the road. While not cheap, the prices are a little better and the food is very good. The pizzas are outstanding and the restaurant is fun with vintage pictures and artifacts from the trapping and mining history of the area. I would also recommend Denali Glacier Ice Cream. This little shop has awesome ice cream and they make the waffle cones fresh. Jack loved the place.
We left Denali with a heavy heart. The greatest find of the visit was RaftDenali and its extraordinary staff. If you want to go rafting, I would highly recommend RaftDenali.
We drove to Talkeetna to spend the night to take a sightseeing flight and do a glacier landing in the morning. We met some incredible people on the way (which I will discuss in a later posting). The biggest piece of advice on Denali is that you need to try to find a way to go there. This is a wild and magical place. It inspires the most hardened soul and should be experienced by every American. You can drive as we did or take the Alaskan Train. Regardless of how your travel, the important thing is to do it and to experience this unique place. It is part of our collective heritage and you should not miss the chance to experience it. Finally, I will say it again. We are so fortunate to have the Park Service and their rangers. I have been to most of our parks and I have never failed to be impressed with the professionalism and knowledge of our rangers. If you go to Denali, corner a ranger or a bus guide and they will help you pick the perfect trail or tour.