Monday, September 7, 2015

Flying to Kantishna

As I said in the previous post, there is one road in Denali National Park and it runs 92.5 miles between the entrance and Kantishna.  Founded as a gold mining camp in 1905, Kantishna endured longer than similar communities in the area, having been constructed nearest to the source of the gold.  Today the only lodges in the park are at Kantishna   To get there today visitors can ride park buses for 6 1/2 hours or do as we did and fly in on Kantishna Air Taxi.  Being a once in a life time experience we decided to go with the "Grand Tour" through the park and hopefully fly by "The High One".

Two Buses on The Park Road
Our Cessna 206 had room enough for 5 passengers and a pilot.  We were limited to 25 pounds of luggage each, which meant I had to choose between clothes and camera gear.   Fortunately for me, June let me put some clothes in her bag.

This blog post is going to be short on words and long on photos.   There is no way I can adequately describe the beauty of Denali from the air.  Hopefully these photos can give you some idea of the grandeur  and majesty.
Storms On The Horizon
Once we took off we were awed by the scenery from above.   The fall reds had just started to appear a couple days earlier.  From the air the tundra looked like it was painted by yellow, green and red brushes.   Our pilot told us what we were seeing as we traveled deeper into the park, but most of what he told us has faded from our memories.   What we do have are lots and lots of photos taken looking out from the plane.
Fall Colors
I don't know the exact route that we took and can't identify the rivers for you.   The pilot was flying around mountains and through valleys to dodge the storms.  This we greatly appreciated because we didn't have time to take Dramamine before the flight.  At one point he said "Hey look at that canyon.  I've never seen that before."   Seems we were in new territory for all of us.

An Undiscovered Canyon

Sun Trying To Break Through
The skies were mostly overcast but occasionally the sun would break through and add dramatic lighting to the already dramatic scenery.
Heard of Caribou
We flew over a heard of Caribou who didn't seem to mind the plane.   Until then I didn't realize how high we were.  The mountains are so massive that I had lost all perspective and thought we were closer to the ground than we were.

Rainbow and Braided River
The alternating rain and sunshine provide us with a view of several rainbows from above.  June and I were passing the camera back of forth to get picture of all of them.   We didn't want to miss a thing.

Muldrow Glacier
What looks like the surface of some alien planet is the Muldrow Glacier in  retreat.  Glaciers retreat when their terminus does not extend as far down valley as it previously did and their ice melts more quickly than snowfall can accumulate and form new glacial ice. Dirt accumulates on top of the ice that is left behind making it appear to be a strange landscape.  Higher temperatures have been causing many glaciers around the world to retreat recently.  If you have seeing a glacier on your "bucket list" I suggest you not wait too long.  They are retreating at an increasing rate and many will be gone in less than a dozen years.
Edge of Braided River
Many of the rivers in Denali are braided rivers, which have multiple channels and bars created when there is more sediment than the water can carry.  The braids are constantly changing and moving as the water levels rise and fall.   In this photo you can see the river, with the gravel bars below and the old river bed above.
Lakes Everywhere
Water can be found most everywhere in Denali National Park with approximately 12,200 lakes and ponds and 18,700 miles (30,000 km) of streams.

Top of McKinley
About 45 minutes into our flight our pilot said he thought the clouds might be breaking around Mt. McKinley.  He climbed above the clouds and there off in the distance was the top of The High One.   It was just barely peaking out above the clouds.  The tallest mountain in North America (20,320 ft or 6,194 m) creates it's own weather and is often wrapped clouds.
A Braided River
After our McKinley flyby we saw the landing strip and our flight was over too soon.  Before too long we were at the Skyline Lodge in Kantishna, which was to be our home for the next few days.  The photo below was taken a couple days after we arrived when the skies were clear and Mount McKinley could be seen off in the distance.  Only about 25% of the people who visit the park actually see the mountain.  We were blessed with clear skies driving up from Anchorage and one day of clear skies in the park.

Skyline Lodge and McKinley
The lodge is run by the Kantishna Air Taxi.   There were about 10 - 12 guest there and we met some nice people who became new friends.   

This completes only the third day of our two week vacation.  There is so much more to come.

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