Thursday, September 6, 2018

Down Memory Lane Part 3

The day after our trip to Seward for Independence Day, we did some sightseeing around Anchorage. Temperatures were in the upper 80s. Skies over Cook Inlet were clear, but clouds hugged the Chugach Mountains. We headed toward Earthquake Park but wanting to avoid mosquitoes, we decided to just drive along it, ending up at the end of the Ted Stevens International Airport. There we had a terrific view of downtown Anchorage.

Looking at Anchorage from the end of the Airport Runway and past Earthquake Park
The next day we headed up the Parks Highway to Fairbanks, a trip of 353 miles. We stopped at Wasilla to eat sourdough pancakes for breakfast. By then, the clouds had dissipated. 

As we drove north, a huge mountain loomed ahead of us. Not being that familiar with the Parks Highway, which has been built since we lived in Alaska, we didn't realize the mountain was Denali, the Athabascan name meaning "the high one" (formerly known as Mt. McKinley), the highest peak in North American at 20, 310 feet above sea level. 

How could we be confused?

Alaska is home to 19 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet. As you can see from the photos, Denali is accompanied by equally impressive nearby Mt. Foraker, or "Sultana" as she is known by the Athabascans. According to their legends, she stands proudly as Denali's wife, the third highest peak in Alaska and in the United States at 17,400 feet. Also nearby is Mt. Hunter at 14,573 feet. These three dominate the skyline for hundreds of miles. 

Our confusion can also be attributed to the fact that we were viewing Denali from the south instead of its usually photographed north view, so its profile differed from what we expected.

Denali from the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge Road
The upper half of Denali is permanently covered with snow and many glaciers, some more than 30 miles long. Denali is so massive that it generates its own weather; much the way a huge boulder submerged in a river creates whitewater rapids. All mountains deflect air masses and influence local conditions, but Denali rises so abruptly and so high that this effect is more dramatic here than perhaps anywhere else on Earth. Storms barrel in from the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea and collide with Denali’s towering mass. Weather can quickly change from sunny and clear to blizzard conditions with fierce winds, intense cold, and heavy snowfall. 

Denali often wears a crown of clouds, but that day, he bared his lofty head to the sky. What a thrill to be able to view the entire peak!

We turned in to view the Alaska Veterans Memorial and were able to snap even more photos.

Denali from the Alaska Veterans Memorial
A smaller mountain surrounded by black spruce forests as we headed north to Fairbanks

A typical Alaskan Rest Area! Look out for mosquitoes!

 Look for more about our trip next week.

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