Friday, August 27, 2010

On The Denali Highway--Part One

In a state with few roads, the Denali Highway is one of the lesser traveled. The road grew out of a series of hunting and mining trails in the high country of the Alaska Range. These eventual grew into a rough road that connected Denali National Park with the Richardson Highway--which at that time was the only north-south road route in the state.

When the Parks Highway--connecting Anchorage and Fairbanks--was completed in 1971, the Denali Highway became a less-travelled alternate route. Since then, the mostly-unpaved road has been a favorite way for Alaskans to get away from the crowds and into the wilderness.

We first (and last) drove the Denali in 1983. We had the chance to do it again and took it.

On the Denali Highway just west of Paxton

Many pothole lakes dot the Tangle Lakes region of the Denali Highway.

Landmark Gap is a migration route through the Ampitheater mountains.

High tundra and low clouds in the Ampitheater Mountains.

This quiet-looking pond is actually a geological point of interest. Construction on the roadbed cut through the tundra protecting an ice lens, which subsequently melted, leaving a collapsed mound and a pond.

Entering Crazy Notch Gap, cut by glacial melt water through an older esker. "Esker" is a word you learn while driving the Denali. Ninety miles to Cantwell...

"Intruder Alert!" signals this caribou, with whom we briefly share the road coming out of Crazy Notch Gap. When alarmed, they raise their tails, exposing a white patch like an exclaimation mark that signals others nearby.

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