North to Alaska: Post Cruise Trip Day 12

Healy. Denali.

Our rooms at Denali Lakeview Inn came with a breakfast bar which included a microwave, a small refrigerator stocked with breakfast plates for two days (large blueberry muffin, apples, oranges, hard boiled eggs, grapefruit cups, milk and juices English muffin), a full sized coffee pot, and drawers filled with coffee, teas, hot chocolate, oatmeal, along with plate settings, wine cups, and extra large coffee mugs. It seems the owners/staff have thought of everything.

I took in the view from our balcony that morning, wanting to stay and not rush on to the next thing we had planned. Rather to rest and enjoy being present in the moment. But alas, after our breakfast we were on our way to Denali National Park. And truthfully, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the beautiful day.

On the way we pulled over next to the Nenana River for some autumn color and a picture of the railroad bridge.

The town outside the Denali National Park entrance with all the gift shops, stores, and restaurants —known as Glitter Gulch—was closed. So no coffee breaks, lunch options or treasure hunts. Unfortunately Jon couldn’t get his Denali sweatshirt because the store inside the park was also closed for the season. The downside of visiting during the off season.

The upside of visiting during the off season: we had driving access 30 miles into the park instead of only 15 during the summer season. And no crowds.

Denali means high and great in the Athabascan language. As I caught glimpses of the souring peaks, I couldn’t help but think, does that not describe our God? Denali. High and great. In any language. The glory of God’s creation was definitely on display in Alaska.

As we drove the 30 miles to the Teklanika rest stop and back, we pulled over many times to take in the views. The many layers of fall colors—reds, golds, yellows, and orange—in the mountain tundra took our breath away.

I suppose with the harsh winter climate in Alaska, it shouldn’t have been surprising to not see a lot of wildlife. I expected it to be more like Yellowstone, with elk, moose, and bison everywhere. But it was not. Just hundreds of square miles of Alaskan wilderness.

Occasionally the clouds would clear enough to get glimpses of blues skies and sunlight on the stunning snow-capped peaks surrounding us. I found peakvisor after we returned home and wished I would have known about it when we were trying to figure out which mountain was which. There are 121 named peaks in the park.

We headed back to Healy and our options were still limited so we ate at 49th State Brewery again. This time I ordered the artichoke crab dip with pita bread. As we ate we overheard discussion that the restaurant would shut down Sunday for the season. The staff would fly out of Fairbanks to wherever and whatever they had planned for the winter. Pretty much the only businesses that would be left open in Healy would be the grocery store and a small diner. It was kind of weird passing through these places as they shut down. I joked to others when we returned home and they asked about our trip, “Alaska was turning out the lights and locking the doors behind us.” My comment was usually met with confused looks or blanks stares. But that’s how it felt.

At the close of the day, we enjoyed a peaceful sunset reflecting on the mountains as we sat on our balcony. It’s hard to determine, but I think it was Dora Peak.

The town of Healy is not a tourist destination but definitely seemed like an excellent place to getaway and unwind. I could have stayed a week—kayaking on the lake, lingering on the balcony, enjoying time around the fire pits, hiking the many trails in surrounding country side. We will have to do that when we visit again.

Yes. We found our bear. A real one. We and about a dozen other vehicles stopped to watch a bear on a distant hill in Denali National Park. She foraged for food in the bushes to fatten up for the long winter ahead. Jon took some great pictures. Check out his bear here.


About Jill English Johnston

God writes His story on every heart, if we only pause to read it. My heart has lived in a fantasy world since early childhood and am delighted that God has finally brought me to the place where I can bring the fantasies to life through story. I am currently working on a fantasy trilogy (of course) but I also post thoughts, reflections and (hopefully) inspiration to my website: I am a follower of the Rabbi Jesus, married to my best friend and inspiration, and the mother of three incredible children, one daughter and two sons, a son-in-love, a daughter-in-love and two adorable granddaughters. When not writing, I passionately pursue prayer, reading (never enough time to read them all!), and the outdoors. My husband and I both served in the US Navy and have lived/travelled through many states and all over Asia. We both still enjoy travelling, but we really love our home in New Braunfels, located at the Texas Hill Country.
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