Alaska’s Denali Borough and Denali National Park have teamed up with REI’s #optoutside movement this post-Thanksgiving Friday. You won’t catch me in a store this weekend, but you might find me out on the trail.
See you outside. It should be close to 0F, plus or minus.
The 140 mile long Nenana River forms the eastern boundary of Denali National Park. This tributary of the Tanana River, is a popular white water rafting destination. The Nenana begins as a Class I, but turns into a Class IV in the Nenana Gorge.
A de Havilland Beaver (DHC-2), flying out of Talkeetna on a flight seeing tour of Denali National Park, tragically crashed near the summit of Thunder Mountain on August 4. The crash site is roughly 14 miles from Denali’s peak.
There were four tourists from Poland on board, as well as the pilot. Initially, word spread that several people on board survived the crash, but that is not the case. All five in the de Havilland perished.
Heavy cloud cover hampered efforts to reach the site in the days right after the crash. The National Park Service eventually was able to send out two crews in helicopters. The first was to check for survivors, and the second was to evaluate the scene for possible recovery. Park rangers were dropped by cable to the broken Beaver, which lay precariously on the mountain side.
After accessing the risk, The National Park Service came to the conclusion Friday, that any attempt to recover the five bodies in the plane would put the rescue crews in too much danger. One look at the photos show why. The Beaver is broken behind the wing, and the tail section is pulling the entire plane down. It’s a 3500 foot drop to the glacier below. Since the crash, 30 inches of snow has fallen, driving up the risk of avalanche.
On Friday, I spent some time downtown, and overheard several tourists complain about the NPS decision. I get why they thought that way, but I respectfully disagree. The risk to a recovery crew would be too great, and as tough as it is to hear it, NPS made the right call.
Denali Park had snowfall last week during the Road Lottery. Tuesday morning saw the first snowfall of the season in Fairbanks. Luckily, the snow was gone in Fairbanks by noon. Still, it caused a lot of foul language around here.
After all of this rain, things are starting to give. A large mudslide has closed the Denali Park Road in The Park. The slide, at Mile 67 of the park road, is 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep. The six inches of rain in the past week, on top of what already fell in June and July, was too much for the ancient volcanic ash in the soil.
Park employees remind folks that there is no cell coverage out at Wonder Lake and Kantishna, and only a few of the lodges have a land line, so people stranded on the west side of the slide will have a much needed, if not appreciated, break from smart phones and internet.
The deadline for entries for the annual road lottery into Denali National Park is May 31. My luck with the lottery has been mixed. I’ve been picked, and I’ve traveled to The Park with friends that have won, but early snow has dampened plans. One thing the Park Service is consistent about: if there is so much as a dusting of snow, they will close the road so quick that even the grizzlies are impressed by the speed.
For those of you not familiar with the lottery: The Park Road opens up to individuals for four days every September for the lottery winners. You pick a day you can travel, Saturday is reserved for military personnel, and if your bid gets picked, you get a vehicle permit for the day to explore the “Denali Park Road as far as weather allows”.
This year the dates are September 16-20. On average, there are 1600 winners chosen. The odds of winning are reportedly 1 in 6.