6/11: Our Lucky Day

There are several activities to choose from at Kantishna Roadhouse; you can do a guided hike, flyfish for grayling, or pan for gold. I’d already taken care of our plans for the morning, having reserved a flight seeing tour of Mt. McKinley with Kantishna Air Taxi. Given the weather on arrival day, this was iffy.  It was still foggy and cloudy after breakfast, but the Lodge received a call that the flight was on.  Will this end up being as good as our flight over Misty Fjords?

We were joined by a couple of gals from our cruise, and a van picked us up at 8:30am.  It is just a short ride to the “airport,” which is a simple unpaved landing strip.  Let’s go for a flight!



As we took off, we saw ………… mostly clouds:





Once we rose above 7,000 ft., we were above the clouds and Denali came into view.  I was impressed – it looked just like I thought it would:



Oh, wait.  That’s not Denali, that’s one of the neighboring peaks (I should have paid more attention to the display at Eielson). Here’s Denali – we were able to see both the North and South peaks.  The lenticular cloud layer hovered over the top, but we did get clear views as we flew around on our tour:





We cruised all around the mountain at 12,000 ft – perspective makes it seem like we are level with the peaks, but the summit is 10,000 ft higher still.













What’s that?  See those two small dots in the bottom clearing?  Turns out we could actually see one of the places where planes land when dropping climbers or supplies.  Some climbers start their ascent half way up the mountain, others start in Talkeetna.



More flying around – this looks like a peak of meringue:







We can actually see one of the base camps – a closer look:



(I was using the small camera with a short zoom, but it was exciting just being able to get glimpses of activity on the mountain)





Andy, our excellent pilot, said we could even see climbers on their ascent.  Of course, Lou spotted them right away.  I looked, and looked; finally saw them after we landed when I reviewed the photos.



Do you see the “S” shaped curve on the left side of the photo above?  Guess what that is?



And, there are more up in the shadow in the top left quadrant of that same photo:



I can’t imagine how people do this?  Denali NP limits the number of climbers on the mountain to 1500 each season – which runs late April to mid-July. Statistics for 2013 show 1,151 people starting the climb, and 68% actually make it to the summit.

It was time to go. Our trip back was fine, as we descended through the clouds and landed back at the airstrip.  This was an incredible morning, seeing Denali above the clouds, and getting a perspective on the climbers made for a very special experience.










We were driven back to the Lodge and were there before lunch.  On the way, we made a quick stop at the Kantishna Air office, and Lou stepped in to take care of our paperwork.  He may have also had a plan up his sleeve.  I waited in the van, and learned what the tennis rackets in our room are for:



They are skeeter zappers – you press a button and swat the suckers, and a jolt of electricity takes care of them.  Cruel – perhaps. Necessary – definitely!

I walked around the Lodge grounds for just a short time after lunch – the giant mosquitoes were annoying, but they did a lot more buzzing than biting.  We might have availed ourselves of more lodge activities, had we not just finished three incredible weeks seeing the Inside Passage.  We were “activitied” out.





Fresh moose poop – of course, we didn’t see a live moose.  Our moose repellant aura seems to be in full force on all of our travels.





Back in the room, Lou is checking out the Skeeter Racket (he ordered two once we arrived home):



We took it easy for the rest of the day, and enjoyed a much-needed nap.  Dinner tonight was the low point of our trip.  I won’t bore you with the details, but our experience was enough to mark the Roadhouse off our list.  Kirsty, John the bartender, and the nature guides were all helpful.  The kitchen and serving staff left a lot to be desired, especially given the cost of staying at the lodge.

I still had one event left for the evening.  At 8:30pm, some of us loaded up in a van and drove a few miles to Wonder Lake.  We walked about a quarter of a mile to the lake. It was a beautiful evening looking over the lake, with Mt. McKinley in the background:











We were back at the lodge at 10pm – giving an opportunity to show just how late the sun stays up in Alaska during the summer:









And that completes another day in Alaska.  We leave early tomorrow for the trip to Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska, Land Tour, Week 4

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