The second leg of our Alaska cruise-tour didn’t start off all that well, but it ended up being great. We were told that the bus would pick us up to take us to the Mount McKinley Princess Lodge at 10am. Well, were waiting in the room and got a call at 9am asking where we were! We were told the wrong time. Luckily, we were ready to go and ran down to get the bus.
It was a three hour drive from Anchorage to Mount McKinley. Of all the sites and experiences I had in Alaska, seeing Mount McKinley is one of the best. We were very fortunate to have had a crystal clear sky, no fog, no clouds obstructing the view of the very top of the highest peak in North America.
Here are some facts about Mount McKinley:
Mount McKinley is also called “Denali,” which means “The High One” in the native Koyukon Athabaskan tongue. It is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve.
The summit is 20,320 feet above sea level.
The first recorded attempt to climb the mountain was by James Wickersham in 1903. He climbed the Peters Glacier and the North Face which is now known as Wickersham Wall.
The first ascent of the main summit was on June 7, 1913. And the first man to reach the summit was an Alaska native, Walter Harper.
In 1947, Barbara Washburn became the first woman to reach the summit. And her husband, Bradford, became the first to reach the summit twice.
The first solo ascent was by Naomi Uemura in 1970. Sadly, she died upon returning in 1984 to make the first winter solo ascent.
The Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, though affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines, is not exclusive to the cruise line. You can stay there even if you’re not booked on one of their cruises. (But I’ve read that you get a better room with a better view if you are.) The rooms were nicely appointed and large, but the property is so big you have to take a shuttle from the main building to many of the outer buildings where the rooms are.
When we arrived we had a nice lunch at the Grizzly Bar which had a great view of the mountain. Then we walked around a nature trail on the property.
We had booked a horseback riding excursion at 5pm. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to the horseback riding place. Our guide was Laramie – what a character! We were the only two on the trail ride and he told us some colorful stories about his life as a rodeo performer. He was only 26 and already had an artificial hip. The trail ride lasted about an hour and we got even closer to Mt. McKinley. The view was like something from a John Wayne movie.
For dinner, we ate at the 20,320 Alaska Grill, named after the height of McKinley.
The next day we would be exploring Denali National Park.
Dates of Visit: June 2011
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