Bright and early this morning, we packed up the RV that we rented for the remainder of our trip to head out of Anchorage toward Denali.
Some brave (or crazy) relatives volunteered to commandeer the RV with all the kids while Paul and I took the minivan with his aunt and uncle. We happily accepted then quickly sped out of the parking lot. ;)
On the way to Denali, we decided to stop in Wasilla to visit the Iditarod Trail Headquarters, a worthy detour.
I learned more about the Iditarod in 40 minutes here than in all the other Alaska books that we used to prepare for the trip. They even showed a fascinating 20 minute video showing highlights of the 2007 and 2008 Iditarod races.
The walls were literally papered with newspaper clippings, photos and information about the winners and memorabilia from the races.
We were even able to see a sled dog team in action (although they were pulling a wheeled sled since it's summer).
Once we left Wasilla, the landscape began to change and you could see the mountain range getting closer.
I couldn't resist snapping a few shots as we stopped to get gas. Beauty is just everywhere in this state!
And right beside the main highway, I found this fascinating little flower, a Red Burnet, which looked like a hot pink caterpillar on a stick.
Once we met up with the rest of the crew at the hotel in Denali (way, way, WAY up a mountain), we downed an early dinner, beside this sharp-clawed grizzly, then headed out for a hike.
We made our way to Denali's Wilderness Access Center, which is the starting point for a few family friendly hikes.
And tried to figure out which trail we would hike for the evening.
We walked a short stretch on the park road,
which has some pretty magnificent views of it's own.
Paulie acquired a new wooden slingshot at the lodge's gift shop and then needed to immediately fire rocks along every foot of the path.
Meanwhile, Finn collected articles for our nature table, although I didn't have the heart to inform him that it would be hard to transport his treasures intact.
We saw more beautiful wildflowers, many the same as Anchorage, and a few new varieties, including these lupines.
Another variety of lupine, maybe? I can't exactly figure this one out.
And the squishy moss floor of the woods with the adorable miniature pinecone scattered everywhere.
The trees were equally lovely and a nice canopy protecting us from some of the wind up here.
Eventually, we came to the bridge over the very windy Nenana River.
But the gorgeous view made it worth braving the wind for a few minutes.
We could even see our hotel from the river bridge (remember I told you it was way, way, WAY up there). I didn't lie.
(Pause for Elizabeth to show off her new bear claw necklace.)
Then back into the woods we went to the shelter from the wind.
And back down the park road to our hotel up on the bluff.
Denali! It's been brief, but we love you already!