Jane booked two nights at the Arctic Fox Inn in Anchorage, so we stayed there again on Sunday night. The itinerary called for a day of travel to Denali National Park on Monday and lodging was reserved at the Healy Family Cabins 12 miles north of the entrance to the park. Amy and Dan backpacked in Denali two years ago, and after seeing their photos and hearing their stories, we wanted to include this stop on our trip. Jane also reserved seats for us on the Denali National Park shuttle for Tuesday.
Once again we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Arctic Fox on Monday morning and then set out on our drive. Drive time from Anchorage to the park was estimated to be 4 hours. Once again it was a cool partly cloudy day with temperatures in the mid-60’s. On the way north I read about the town of Talkeetna so we made a slight detour. It is a small town that mountain climbers use as a staging point for attempts to summit Mt. McKinley. Small shops and restaurants lined the two streets, and a bunch of tourists had just arrived via the Alaska Railroad. We went through town and parked and hiked out to the shore of a huge river that flowed by the town. We then met a couple from the Philadelphia area who suggested we hike up to a railroad bridge because four eagles were visible. We did this but couldn’t spot anything other than some seagulls soaring above the river.
We returned to the car and reversed course back to the highway and continued north to Denali. When we reached the park we stopped and confirmed our reservation for Tuesday and then continued on the main road within the park. Passenger cars are allowed to drive the first 15 miles, but then access beyond that point is only by buses. We decided to stop at the Mountain Vista picnic area and eat our lunch. We pretty much had this area to ourselves and then took a short loop hike at Mountain Vista. Jane made friends with a bird by feeding it an orange slice.
After lunch we continued toward Savage River which is the furthest point that can be reached via passenger car. Several cars were stopped on a high turnout overlooking the river, so we stopped and spotted three caribou in the river bed. We then continued a short distance and parked at the trailhead for the Savage River loop. While doing this short 1.5 mile loop we encountered a family of grouse-like birds that we think were ptarmigan. The adults were on the hiking path attempting to nudge all the young ones off the path.
Once we completed our hike, we returned to the car and drove back to the main highway and then north and found our cabin. It was a cute little one room cabin with a deck in a neatly landscaped evergreen forest. I read about the restaurants in the area and there appeared to be only one viable option in Healy, a brewpub called the 49th State. We went in search of this establishment and found it along the highway. It was set back from the road and looked like a converted warehouse. Once we entered it was quite rustic with all sorts of backwoods decor on the walls. We both had huge salmonburgers for dinner. They were so large that we wondered where they obtained such giant rolls.
The menu mentioned that the bus that was lived in by the character in the book and movie Into the Wild was parked outside the restaurant so on the way out we boarded the bus and took some photos. We returned to our cabin and got a good nights rest before our planned day enjoying the shuttle ride in Denali National Park.