July 27, 2013 Day 14: Denali National Park

If I could have done anything differently  I would have planned my one day stay at the Denali National Park better. I played with a plane trip to Mount McKinley. It was dependent on whether or not the sky would be clear.  I did not make an alternative plan.

Everyone was busy at the tourist center finalizing plans for the next day.  The sightseeing offering was vast from Range Rover trips to see wildlife, hiking trips to unknown floras and kayaking down the river. I was still undecided. Fighting my physical exhaustion and desire to see more - to be in nature before I would return to the skyscraper jungle of New York.

Denali made me miss my childhood in Germany a lot, as well as my hiking trip to Austria. Alaska's landscape differs dramatically from the Alps due to its location on the longitude grade in the  coordinates. It has many pines and shrubs.

It was overcast when I woke up.  The flight was out.   I finally settled for an early afternoon hike with a park ranger.  It was just under a mile and using my legs for another activity would help with the soreness from the lactic acid built-up in the muscles.

During the hike, he told us about the history of the Denali National Park and the animals. The squirrels have a red coat from eating the pine trees nuts. He pointed out some rusty cans with his hiking stick and an old shoe laying 50 yards off the trail. They were considered historic since they were more than 50 years old.  It is prohibited to remove them and they have to be preserved for future generations.

At the end I asked him for another short hike and he recommended Savage Lake. It was one of the most beautiful hikes in the world, he said, and I thought, “If I cannot believe a park ranger who else could I trust?”

The Savage Lake hike is two simple miles along a creek that merged with a river downstream. It was gorgeous! The rocks flanking the creek formed more than 60,000 years ago.  Short grass was growing on the hills and some shrubs were in bloom.  I passed two fellow tourists who pointed out a couple mountain goats on a summit. From a distance they looked like small cotton balls. That would be the only wildlife sighting in Alaska for me.

On the way back to town I fell asleep. I was glad that I did not go on a more strenuous hike. In town I  ran into a couple guys from my group and we headed to the Salmon Bake for dinner.

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