After doing laundry, community service, and shopping in Anchorage, we geared up for our final excursion into the wild. We drove north to Denali National Park, where we met sharp edged mountains, thick green forest, and crystal clear alpine lakes. Simply put, Denali is awe-inspiring. We arrived in the late afternoon on the 21st excited for our first of three camping days. Step one was to set up our tents and camp kitchen. Some of the campers had never set up a tent before! After settling in and rolling out our sleeping bags, we got dinner going. A few games of Frisbee later and perhaps a few too many s’mores, we found ourselves tired from the long day of driving. It was easy to convince everyone of heading to bed early and they were all happy to snuggle up into their cozy sleeping bags and get some rest.
Day two was hike day. We split into two groups and hiked Mt. Healy Overlook and Horseshoe Lake Trail. They both had tons to offer. Horseshoe Lake Trail was filled with beautiful alpine waters, beaver dams, and views of wild rivers. Mt. Healy Overlook gave hikers a well-earned view of the entire Denali campground complex. We could see the train making its way down the tracks, with the river cutting back and forth across the landscape.
On day three, we packed up our things and drove south to Talkeetna. There, we met up with Sheldon Air Service. We flew about 30 minutes by bush plane to the Sheldon Amphitheater; the Sheldon Amphitheater is a giant section of mountains with a deep valley covered in glaciers. It’s named after the original Don Sheldon for whom the Air Service is also named. Don Sheldon was an incredible bush pilot who actually homesteaded a tiny cabin on a large spit of granite stuck right in the middle of the glacier. The only access to the cabin is by plane. The bush plane we were in landed right on the glacier surrounded by the Sheldon Amphitheatre! According to our pilot, its much easier to land a plane on snow pack then on asphalt. While on the glacier we had a snow ball fight, looked at some crevases, went sledding, made snow angels, and of course took in the rugged beauty of the Alaska Range. During the flight back we had our first glimpse of a bear! As we flew by tundra-covered mountains, we saw the bear lumbering through the bush presumably in search of berries. It was amazing. After the flight, we drove a short 45 minutes to our final campsite at Montana Creek Campground, where of course we indulged in more s’mores and a campfire! We also had the chance to see salmon running the river to spawn. We actually saw two different species of Salmon; Pink and King.
After waking up this morning at Montana Creek, we stopped in Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla for an impromptu session of laser tag. What a great way to break up the drive. Upon arrival in Anchorage, we all had much needed showers!
It’s hard to believe tomorrow is the final day of the trip. Who knows what will be in store!
The Zeal Team