Alaska is known for a variety of attractions that lure in tourists year after year. Highlighted among those are the ever-popular Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park, an array of wildlife, fresh salmon, breathtaking sights and simple serenity. Each of these appeals is at your fingertips when you stay at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.
At check-in my family and I were welcomed into the main lodge by the warm scent of fresh cinnamon rolls flirting with every guest that entered through the massive log doors. Instinctively, we had to taste those rolls after we settled into our rooms. To make matters worse for our waistlines, next to the counter where the cinnamon rolls were sold was a sign advertising homemade Alaskan ice cream. It doesn’t take much convincing to get my family and me to sample such temptations.
Aside from the delicious sweets we indulged in upon arrival, the views were impossible not to get lost in. With our accommodation neatly wedged into the side of a mountain, our neighbors consisted of a mass of pine trees, an expansive cascade of mountains, some touristy shops across the street, and a fast-flowing river nearby. We were only miles from Denali National Park, home to Mt. McKinley: North America’s highest peak at a staggering 20,320 feet tall. The location of the lodge offered many opportunities to catch great views of the mountain, translating into an overload of pictures on my digital camera of what seemed like every angle humanly possible of the mountain.
We took advantage of this close proximity and booked a tour of Denali Park, piling into a rickety-looking school bus driven by a tour guide that picked us up at the main lodge entrance promptly at a blurry-eyed 6:00 am. She brought us 62 miles into the park that expands over a total of 6 million acres. Over the course of the 7 hour bus tour people would shout and point at something moving in the distance that often turned out to be a grizzly bear, some Dall sheep, a few foxes, caribou, and reindeer. Sprinkle in a few eagles and it made for quite an eventful day of wildlife sightings.
Midway through the tour, the bus stopped to present us a striking view of Mt. McKinley, at which point everyone went snap-happy with their cameras - myself included. The view was incredible. McKinley loomed over its sister mountains with this majestic sentiment that swiftly takes the breath away from any admirer. It is truly a sight that eludes justice in photographs.