This year, in keeping with my new motto “Why Not”
I decided to enter the Denali Road Lottery
The lottery is held each year with the winning ticket allowing you to drive your personal car through the
Denali National Park. This year there were 9,340 entries with 1,600 “winners” drawn (divided into 4 days =
400 for each day). Only 1,420 of the winners actually participated, however – for whatever reason, some
people just can’t go.
I actually did not win, but that’s not surprising: the odds are fairly high against it. I know of a lot of
people who enter every year and never win. However, a friend of mine actually did win – but ended up not being
able to go. She very generously allowed me to use her permit.
What an amazing trip that was: truly spectacular! If you ever have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend it.
Elizabeth and I headed out Saturday around noon, driving the 245 miles from Anchorage up to the park in about
4 hours. We got checked in and paid our fees with plenty of time to set up camp and cook our dinner before
heading off to bed.
Trust me when I say that sleeping in a tent at 20 degrees Fahrenheit is not as fun as it sounds. As
a matter of fact, it’s downright cold. But I had a good tent and the sleeping bag was actually quite
comfortable once I burrowed into it, so I was ready to go by 6:00 the next morning.
Normally they only allow personal cars to drive about 15 miles into the park, but since I had my road
permit we were able to go the entire 92.5 miles, all the way to Kantishna. We were lucky, too – the
weather that day was absolutely perfect! We had clear blue skies with unlimited visibility of the
mountain, which really is something to brag about as you typically have less than 30% chance of
actually seeing McKinley due to her weather patterns.
We took our time, driving an average of 15-20 miles per hour and stopping at any and every opportunity.
We didn’t get as much hiking in as I’d hoped for, but it was still an amazing trip and I got literally
hundreds of fantastic pictures. The road was in great shape, so my little Yaris did very well. Parts of
the road were actually pretty scary: the cliffs drop off at least 100 feet, and the road is very narrow
– especially if you have a car coming at you on the other side. There were a few times when Elizabeth
had a death grip on the arm rest, poor thing.
Along the way, we got to see Sandhill Cranes, Ptarmigan, Camp Robbers, Golden Eagles, Moose, Bears,
Foxes, Wolves, porcupine, and ground squirrels – pretty much the only thing we didn’t see was a caribou.
It was a very long drive, though. By the end of the day, 12+ hours later, I was exhausted and could
barely stay awake long enough to eat my dinner before crawling back into my sleeping bag for the night
The following morning we saw that the temperatures had dropped even lower than they had been the previous
night. Taking down a tent when it’s that cold is really difficult, to say the least. It was also too cold
for the camp stove: it was all we could do to coax it along to heat enough water for a cup of tea, so we
just packed up the car and headed on our way home without breakfast.