Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Denali Baby!!!

7 years of waiting and we finally got drawn for the Denali road lottery!!!!  What that means is we were one of only 1200 people chosen to be allowed to drive all the way into Denali National Park over a 4 day period.  We were selected for Monday Sept. 7th , and we were thrilled!!!  The other 361 days a year the road is closed to private vehicles after mile 15, and the only way to see the inner park up to mile 92 is by bus.  A cram packed bus ride (we are talking school bus) taking more than 8 hours is not what I consider fun, so we waited for the lottery!  It was well worth the wait.  3 days, 514 photos and 725 miles later we are back in Anchorage and excited to enter the lottery again next year!  It was amazing.

Headed out on the road, Chloe is all set for an adventure.
 We left Anchorage with CRAZY wind and CRAZY rain.  Another storm was bearing down.
 We stopped after a few hours on the drive out of Anchorage to get some food and most importantly to let the girls run around for a while.  Overall I think it took about 5 hours to get up to Healy where we rented a cabin.  
 It looks like a love of tartar sauce runs in the family!!

 When we finally made it there we went out for dinner.  As you may be able to see Chloe had a ton of energy.  And so did Madeline so basically Andrew and I ate dinner in shifts.  When we were not enjoying our awesome food we were running around the restaurant and outside with the girls.  It was okay because we were at a brewery, and the beer was great!

Back to the cabin for a good night's rest........ or at least that is what we wanted.  We had a very windy rainy night, and the noise, or the new environment was a problem for both girls.  Maddie was up about every hour and Chloe was so terrified that Andrew ended up sleeping in the room with her, while I took the room with Madeline.  
The view was pretty though!

 In the morning after a good night's rest :) we were off to Denali National Park.  We were all a bit tired but super excited.  Chloe got hot chocolate and MOm and Dad had coffees.  Maddie took her first nap around 8 am, so she was good.  
 Shortly after entering the park we had our first wildlife spotting!!  A moose!  Wohoo we saw an animal!!

 We had a short hold up while we waited for the rangers to give us the go ahead.  Since it was so cold the night before, ice was built up on part of the road and we had to wait for it to thaw.  After seeing the narrow cliffside roads we understood why there was such a big fuss about a little ice.  

 Wohoo our second wildlife spotting!!  A bear!!!
 We got out of the car and watched it for a while.  It was pretty windy and cold but it didn't matter because it was so amazing to see a bear in it's natural habitat.  This bear was just wandering along the riverbanks eating berries.  Very cool!

 No way!!  Another bear?!!!  This one was super close.  We got out of the car again!  As the bear got closer though we got back in the car.  

 Andrew stayed out though and got some pretty cool pics of the berry eating bear.

 It was a little bear, maybe just a year or two old, but still plenty big to be cautious of!  I got out of the car for a closer look but definitely didn't let Chloe out of the car.  Poor Maddie missed most of the action napping away!

 Whoa!  Snow on the ground!  
 We stopped to get a snowball for Chloe.  If you are wondering, yes that is a "perfect boyfriend Ken"and no we did not buy it for her.  It was a grandma present, and let me tell you SHE LOVES IT!!  He repeats everything she says.  I guess she likes to wear the pants in the relationship :)  

 We finally made it to the Eielson Visitor Center at mile 66.  Everyone got to get out of the car this time and ran around like crazy.  The visitor center was amazing, with views of Mt. McKinley, and pretty much the entire Alaska Range.  It was spectacular.  Of course the girls loved the unexpected parts of the visitor center.  

 Chloe was sworn in as a junior ranger.  Too cute!

 We piled back in the car and headed out to mile 85 to Wonder Lake.  
 Here is Andrew contemplating....I wonder why we drove and extra 19 miles each way to see this lake.... It was really cloudy, so the spectacular view of Mt. McKinley that we were hoping for did not happen.  Bummer.  We got back in the car before the girls woke up and headed back on our journey out of the park.
 Shortly after Wonder Lake the girls got wrestles, so we stopped back at Eielson again.  This time we took to the trails!

 Another snowball!

 This is a perfect representation of Madeline's personality!  Silly!

 Another wildlife spotting!  

 After a good amount of time on the ground, we loaded back in for the gorgeous drive back.

 The park was amazing, and I am so glad we made the trip.  I don't think a lot of people would probably attempt the drive heavy vacation with a 1 year old and 3 year old in the car, but we survived.  Not only did we survive but we had a pretty good time and saw some really amazing things along the way!  Our second night in the cabin was much better, and the next morning we were all ready to get back home.  It started raining and was pretty nasty by the time we hit the road.  A far cry from the super nice day we had in the park.  On our drive home it even started snowing!!!!   
 We let Chloe roll down her window to catch snow and she thought it was pretty cool!
As much fun as we had, it is still very nice to be home.  Although we are in the middle of yet another wind storm.  Last night some of the gusts shook the house like an earthquake, but as of yet we have not lost power.  This weather is a little crazy.  I guess summer is definitely over.  WAY OVER.  I think we probably only have a few more weeks until the snow flies here.  On a positive note, all this stormy weather is really getting me excited for fall flavors, pumpkin, cloves, cinnamon....Heck I am even a little excited for the snow!


Amber said...

Whoa! That is beyond beautiful and amazing! You need to blow some of those pictures up for sure. Glad you survived the car part, I think it would be a couple years before I took that on!

Anonymous said...


What a wonderful post, I would love to make the trip through the park. We have been following your early storms, glad you are surviving OK. Hugs to the girls!


Gma and Gpa P said...

What a terrific adventure! We're glad you were able to make the trip after winning the lottery. The mostly beautiful weather was just a bonus.

Mary said...

Beautiful pictures! I can see why you're doing the lottery again next year

Anonymous said...

Great trip. Now I want to go on a long road trip in nature. Loved reading about it. The girls are lucky to go on such adventures!

Julia said...

So beautiful! What an amazing place!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful scenery. Thanks alot, you made my day.