September 3. We left the McKinley area and drove north towards Denali National Park, about a two hour drive away. On the way we passed the Byers Lake area and also the very moving Alaska War Memorial. It is a tribute to the sacrifice of the US Armed Forces in Alaska (especially during World War II) and also commemorates Alaska's Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. It is well worth a stop.
We got to Denali National Park, the foliage showing more and more signs of fall as we headed north. We spent over an hour in the visitor center viewing an excellent film and enjoying the great educational exhibits. This is where I learned about the value of mosquitoes. Then, the day being a pleasant one, we decided to do some short hikes around the visitor center. Denali National Park is mostly wilderness and trail-less, but there are some trails around the visitor center that are good ones. We hiked on three of these: the Taiga, Horseshoe Lake, and Spruce Trails, as well as a little bit on the bicycle path connecting a couple of the pathways. Here are some photos.
There is a fairly steep trail up Mount Healy that is supposed to have tremendous views, but there was not enough time. So many trails, so little time.
These are views along the Taiga Trail:
Taiga is a Russian or Finnish word meaning "little sticks," and is the world's largest biome. We would see plenty of taiga, and tundra, in the next few days.
I am not sure what this plant is, but it was putting on its finest dress on this summer day, which is really autumn this far north.
Here is another view of Mount Healy, in autumnal splendor, from the Horseshoe Lake trail.
View of the Horseshoe Lakes and the Nenana River:
At this point we were at least 400-500 vertical feet above the lakes, with a very steep slope down to the lakes through the woods. Yet beaver are coming all the way up the slope to cut trees. They must have cut out all the edible wood near the lakeshore, and must be desperate for food to take such a perilous journey this far from water.
It is great to be in a new National Park!