Denali National Park: North America's Majestic Mountain

What I Know

Denali is the correct name for the largest mountain in North America, not Mount McKinley, which is the bureaucratic Colonial name given to it in the 19th Century.  It is also the last American frontier.

What I learned

Denali = The Great One (Athabaskan)

The more I travel, the more I learn that the longer you can remain in a state of perpetual visitation at any one place, the more you will come to know about it.  In other words, work hard, save up and take longer vacations (or find a way to work while you're there).  

I photographed Denali for over 3 months.  

The summer in Denali National Park goes through three major and uniquely distinct phases: early summer, mid-summer and late summer (I'm completely making this up in order to create a forum to share about my time in Alaska).

1.     Early Summer (The Thaw) - The thick heavy winter starts to melt away, slowly as the endless night begins to transition into eternal sunshine.  Grizzlies, black bears, porcupines, and skunks emerge from the earth after months of hibernation and fruitless foraging.  Nature loving tourists from all over the globe slowly begin to trickle in as the temperature gets warmer.  Locals plant their gardens at this time.  You couldn't even imagine how large and the speed in which things grow in Alaska.  'The Thaw' takes place from May to about the first week of June.  

2.     Mid Summer (The Thrive) - The bright purple fire weed are blooming in such excess that you can actually see it from the sky.  Large land mammals openly roam the National Park pursuing their most basic and primal needs.  Hotels and lodges are filled to capacity with travelers that are fighting off mosquitoes like something out of a Hitchcock film. The sun circles the sky, never descending below the horizon, like a lost drunkard trying to find his home.  'The Thrive' is from mid June until mid August.

3.     Late Summer (The Preparation) - Wild blueberries are going off everywhere like fireworks while the Northern Lights dance on a nightly basis.  Animals prepare for a long, deep, cold winter and most humans also prepare to escape South (this is a fitting time to give credit to those true Alaska folks who actually stay up there through the winter; you're a special type of people - I am not one of you).  'The Preparation' time begins near the end of August and the snow begins to fall around mid September.  Get out while you can...

What not to miss when you go to Denali:

1.     Take a flight with KAT Air (Kantishna Air Taxi).  They have great pilots and they will show you views that you will never forget.  All of my flying while in Alaska was with them.  They also have exclusive commercial access to the air strip right in the heart of the Park.  Tell them L sent you.   TIP: When photographing from the sky, I recommend using only a UV filter, as opposed to a polarizing filter.  A polarizing filter will make your shadows too dark.

2.     Spend at least 3 nights in Kantishna, right in the heart of Denali National Park and avoid those big, expensive lodges.  Sojourn at a smaller more intimate lodge, like Skyline Lodge.

3.     Take the park bus, if only one time.  You are likely to see more active wildlife on that bus trip than you ever will by any other means. 

           The story continues. Each image below reveals a moment in time, a story unto itself.

What I Saw