While a cruise to Alaska showcases the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery that the coast has to offer, there’s so much more to see in the interior of this stunning state.
When you visit Alaska, go all the way and don’t leave without exploring one of the most picturesque parts of the world. On a Holland America Line Land+Sea Journey, you can balance the “must see” and “seldom seen” by combining a pampering cruise with an overland journey deep into the heart of the Yukon and Denali National Park.
The Land+Sea Journeys run May through September and are simplified with just 12 options ranging in total length from 10 to 20 days in two distinct series: Yukon and Denali Land+Sea Journeys and Denali Land+Sea Journeys. All Land+Sea Journeys combine a three- to seven-night Holland America Line cruise with an overland adventure that includes a one,- two- or three-night stay at Denali National Park as a centerpiece of the Alaska experience.
With Holland America Line’s Summer on Sale savings that apply to the Land+Sea Journeys, now is the time to book this adventurous exploration. The 2015 itineraries have just been announced, so you can plan for this season or the next.
Dynamic Duo — Denali National Park and Dawson City
The Winter 2014 issue of Holland America Line’s Mariner Magazine features an article entitled “Dynamic Duo” by Dave Johnston that gives insight into Denali National Park and the Yukon’s Dawson City.
Here is the featured selection about Denali National Park that was in Mariner Magazine, which is sent to Holland America Line’s top Mariners. But don’t worry, everyone can see Mariner Magazine by checking out the online version. Just click HERE.
STOP! MOOSE!” somebody yells. This is what Sarah Clyce, our guide and driver, has told everyone on the bus to say. Don’t say “Wow!” or “Oh, my gosh!” when you spot an animal in Denali National Park & Preserve; just yell “Stop!” We’re not far from the park’s visitors’ center when we hear that first shout, and Clyce, as promised, hits the brakes.
Except I don’t see anything. Looking into a forest of tightly bunched spindly black and white spruce, all I see are trees. Then another visitor points to a brown patch among them. Even then, it’s only when the animal steps out from between the branches that I see it’s a bull moose.
This is the first of the Big Four — moose, grizzly, Dall sheep, caribou — I’ve seen. Then it takes another couple of steps and it’s gone. I’m amazed at how easily a seven-foot-tall, 1,200-pound animal with an enormous rack of antlers can disappear behind a tiny tree. Clyce explains that it’s mating season, and indeed, as we continue to drive through the park we see a number of other moose, each looking for that special someone.
Denali National Park & Preserve is here thanks to the work of naturalist Charles Sheldon and other people who wanted to make certain that this unique section of Alaska and its wildlife survived. Established as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917, as its borders were expanded over the years the park was renamed Denali National Park & Preserve. Now, at 6.1 million acres, it’s just a little smaller than the state of Vermont.
But it’s Vermont with only one road. The park’s single 92-mile road dips, rises, and meanders among forests, tundra, and mountains, where approximately 350 grizzly bears, 1,800 moose, and 1,760 caribou live.
Traveling through the amazing landscape on park-tour buses has two major advantages: They’re allowed to go much farther on the park road than cars, and there are a lot more eyes in one place looking out for animals.
Past the forest and into tundra cut by shallow rivers and surrounded by mountains, we spy a mother bear with two cubs high above us. While the moose are looking to mate, these bears are bulking up for their coming winter slumber. A bear can eat 100,000 blueberries in a day, Clyce says. And while I don’t keep count, I can attest to the bears’ ability to eat. They don’t nibble away at the blueberries, so much as they tear through the bushes like riding mowers with mouths.
Near the Toklat River, a few miles up the road, I’m fortunate enough to spot (well, I’m fortunate enough to have somebody else spot) two Dall sheep on the side of a peak several hundred feet up, grazing on a near-vertical surface. That’s their defense strategy: Go where no other creature can get to you and stay there.
As impressive as seeing these animals is, the park is also home to the High One. Mount McKinley or Denali, as it’s known around here, dwarfs the mountains of the surrounding Alaska Range, some of which are more than 12,000 feet high. Denali, at 20,237 feet, is so tall that it creates its own weather system.
As we look out for North America’s tallest mountain and some of the continent’s largest mammals in this massive landscape, a fox trots across the road in front of us. I’m reminded that I also have to be able to appreciate a one-and-a-half-foot-tall, coppery red fox trotting into the underbrush of the tundra. Because while the big things are worth seeing, so are the small.
Have you been to Denali National Park? What impressed you the most? Tell us in the comments below!
To read the post about Dawson City, click HERE.