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Yesterday we took the day off and did some planning and reading.
Today we will remember for the rest of our lives.
We woke up to a beautiful, clear day. I wasn’t sure where we were going to stop. There are a bunch of viewpoints along the highway that I thought might be nice to stay at for only $10. Eventually we were going to spend a few days in Talkeetna. I am glad we pressed on.
As we left Cantwell we could still see the north side of Denali and it looked pretty clear but hazy since it was so far away.
Farther south at what is called the Denali South Viewpoint we were joined by 4 busloads of people and enjoyed what we thought was a great view of the mountain.
There were a bunch of old Fords in the parking lot doing a rally of some kind.
We decided to go on to Talkeenta. This town is the base from which they fly in climbers that are going to tackle Denali. They also have flight seeing excursions for tourists. They are very expensive but all of the guide books and everyone we talked to said to do it if you can.
We got to the campground and managed to snag one of the last sites that would fit our beast. We will stay here for 3 days.
We thought we would wander over to the airport and think about booking a flight for tomorrow but the guy at the campground desk said conditions were perfect right now, which does not happen very often and can change in an instant. He called up the company I was thinking of using, to see what was available. By this time it was about 1:30. They asked if we could make a 2 pm flight but that was cutting it a bit tight. They said they were thinking of adding a 4:30 flight so we booked on that one.
At first Jennie said she didn’t want to go because of her reaction to heights but I convinced her that she would regret missing this and she agreed. There were a few bad moments but she is glad she went.
As I said it is not cheap. We took the Grand Denali Tour which included a landing on a glacier for $340 a person. That hurt a lot but I sure don’t regret it. Between us we took about 600 pictures. It was hard to choose which one to show you.
The airport is right behind the campground so we walked over and got checked in. Normally there is a 4 person minimum but for some reason they went ahead with just the two of us.
This plane was taking a bunch of climbers up for mountaineering training.
Here is our plane, a Cessna 185. Our pilot, Tyler, said this is their newest plane, only about 25 years old. We saw the 2 pm flight get back and there were 6 of them in a larger plane.
Off we go. You can see the line of busses at the railway station. Our campground is just behind the busses.
The plane full of climbers took off before us but we are faster and it is now beside us.
As you can see there are now a lot of clouds in the sky which had us a bit worried. Tyler said that conditions around the mountain are usually very different than in the valley so we crossed our fingers. As we got closer it still looked pretty cloudy.
We all wore headsets so we could hear each other.
Things did look a bit better as we got closer.
The glacier in the foreground is striped because it is formed by many glaciers higher up in the mountains coming down and being squeezed together. The ice around the S curve in the glacier is about 4000 feet deep.
We flew over some pretty long drops.
The glaciers had these beautiful blue pools on them. Tyler said they would eventually melt to the bottom and drain away but even now the cracks beneath them could be many hundreds of feet deep.
We flew around to the north face of Denali. We were so close you could not fit it all in one picture.
A speck of another plane down on the snow. We did not land there.
Our landing spot is the glacier in the center of the picture below.
The view outwards. Denali is the peak over the plane, 20 miles in the distance. That black rock wall in front of us is 7 miles away. It looked like you could easily walk there.
The rock wall beside us was 2500 feet straight up.
After about 1/2 hour staring and feeling very small it was time to leave. Back up in the air he flew right up along side this cliff with these many thousand foot waterfalls cascading over. He said he had never seen so much water here.
He banked the plane quite steeply so we could get a picture upwards.
We headed home flying low over the huge glacier we saw originally.
No climbing here.
One final view back at Denali.
Flying again in the valley we spotted some moose in a lake so we circled around for a low pass.
The weather ahead of us looked pretty mean. There were thunderstorms with lightning on both sides and ahead of us yet somehow we were still in the sunshine.
We went through a bit of rain and some minor bumpiness but the weather at the airport was still good.
Almost as soon as we landed the dark clouds moved in. They even offered to drive us back to the RV because it looked so bad. We got back about 7. At about 7:15 the rain started. It has been constant and quite heavy and it is now 11. Our weather luck is holding.
Words and pictures cannot really describe this day. Wow!