Another gorgeous day and I made my way north from Anchorage to Talkeetna. This is the airstrip famed bush pilot Don Sheldon used for many years. Known for exceptional piloting and daring rescues of distressed and lost people, Sheldon has received the highest civilian honors ever presented by the military. His book, "Wager with the Wind" is a fascinating read. A museum in Talkeetna features much of his life. The federal government approved naming an "amphitheater" after him on Denali years ago. He died of cancer in the 70's, and his daughter still flies and keeps his plane in Talkeetna. So is it "McKinley" or "Denali?" Same thing, but McKinley was the name of a politician, and Denali means "the high one" in native tongue. Easy choice for me...
Main street in Talkeetna. I'd been here once a couple years ago, but fell in love with it all over again. Very small, but is the jumping off point for all the alpine excursions to Denali. It's a little drinking town with a climbing problem. So the town, which is relatively "young" by old town standards, continues its calling as a goods and services center. Originally for mining gold and trapping, and now as a sleeping/eating/pub spot for adventurous climbers. Supper was a nice treat, and I enjoyed chatting with a group who was leaving the next day for 3 weeks on Denali. It's a fun town to walk around-- everyone is full of positive energy and hope for their big climb. Statistically, 50% will summit. Guided groups average slightly higher than solo groups. At 20,320 feet, temperatures can reach minus 40, even in the popular climbing months of April-June.
Leaving Talkeetna and flying towwards the Alaska Range. Denali is obscured in the clouds. I'm flying at around 500 feet off the ground, which is close to sea level. That puts the top of Denali almost 4 miles above me in a short distance. Not surprisingly, it takes a pretty clear day to see the top.
Flying up the Ruth Glacier towards the Ruth Amphitheater. Winding through the moutains is surreal. Even the "foothills" are big. There are 7 "little" mountains around Denali that are taller than 12,000 feet. Denali is the tallest peak in North America. While there are other peaks that are taller, none of them have the height from floor to top that Denali has. The atmosphere is also irregular on the planet, with more atmosphere "stacked" at the equator, so the poles have less height to the valuable insulated and oxygenated air so vital under strenuous climbing.
Poing and shoot and the colors are wild.
Building in Denali park is off limits. Don Sheldon built this in the 1940's and it has been grandfathered in. "Mountain House" is situated in Ruth Amphitheater and has windows on all sides, while reportedly sitting on ball bearings that allow it to rotate. Want to spend a night there? It can be arranged.
Landed on a gravel bar to refuel from my 5 gallon can. Alaska range in the background. Somebody pinch me.