Saturday, July 5, 2014

Kantishna Roadhouse

Waaaaay back at the end of the road in Denali, past Wonder Lake, is tucked a sweet little resort. Actually there are 2 or 3 lodges back there, but this is the one we went to for lunch, rest and some recreation. It is a beautiful facility, though I'm not sure it would be worth $500/night per person that it costs to stay there (oh, only $400/night for additional people after the first). It is nice, but not that nice.

Kantishna Roadhouse
One of the cabin rentals at Kantishna
We had a simple lunch of wraps and soup, had some free time to get a shoulder massage, shop in the gift shop or wander about the grounds, and then were scheduled for either the sled dog demonstration by a guy who won the Junior Iditarod a few years back or go gold panning in the river. We opted to pan for gold. Our guide gave us sand and gravel from a spot upstream, then demonstrated how to swish the pan to get to gold to settle to the bottom and the rest of the stuff to get washed away. Douglas and his brother both found gold flakes in their pans. The Kantishna staff laminates it as a keepsake. This area was discovered by gold seekers, so it was fitting that we panned for gold.

Gold flake Douglas found panning for gold

Our gold panning guide demonstrated techniques for finding gold.
The old surveyors cabin; a family of 6 lived in this for at least 6 months.

Before we boarded the bus to return to the Park entrance we had to watch the sled dog demonstration. The dogs were pulling a 4-wheeler, which I know is how they train them in the summer. The incongruous part was that the 4-wheeler motor was on so we smelled the fumes as it went by.

Once the dogs ran past a couple times, the folks that were flying back out got on the shuttle van to take them to the airport. This included Doug and his brother. The rest of us boarded the bus for the 5 hour ride to the park entrance.

Airstrip at the end of the road in Denali

View of Denali above the clouds

They got a view of the mountain we didn't get from below

View of the park road from the air

Huge washes from past glacial melts
The 45 minute plane ride went smoothly and was thoroughly entertaining with the pilot's enthusiasm for trying to get better views (and perhaps a little showing off for a pilot who was a passenger), until the landing, when the plane literally bucked around and as the pilot passenger said, "This plane just doesn't want to land, does it?" Apparently there are a few little private airports in the area, and pilots fly into different ones depending on the conditions. Even good conditions led to a bumpy landing, but Doug and Phil considered it well worth it for the views and not having to ride the bus all the way back.

Overall, this was a neat trip. The weather cooperated nicely. Apparently more animals are seen when it is overcast, but it wasn't rainy till later in our bus trip back.

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