My Mt. Mckinley Adventure
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat is one of many reporting that Obama is going to officially rename Mt. Mckinley to Mt. Denali. A surprise to me as I thought that had already done. It's North America's highest peak and can be seen from Anchorage on a clear day.
As an aside, I object to these silly name changes.
We drove right by it once without even knowing it was there. I'm guessing it was the late '80s when we were up there for annual training with the Army National Guard. We had a couple days off in the middle of our two weeks to fill.
I was wandering around Camp Carrol which is part of Fort Richardson the first day off when Tom Sauls approached me and asked if I wanted to pitch in on renting a car to go see Mt. Mckinley. Sounded fun, so I quickly accepted. Five of us pitched in. Me, Tom Sauls, Dean "Smitherdog" Smither and two other guys from the company whose names escape me.
We ended up renting a mid- sized sedan which turned out to be a bit tight for the five of us. The front seat wasn't bad with two people but we were crammed elbow to elbow in the back seat.
We drove and drove. North from Anchorage/Ft. Richardson, up through the Palin country town of Wasilia (I think) and then south towards Mckinley. By the time we drove through Wasilia it was dark but you could still see. It never gets completely dark in the summer there.
We drove and drove. Quite frankly, aside from seeing some big rivers earlier on, I find Alaska scenery somewhat boring. A whole bunch of trees that pretty much all look the same, but I still tried to stay awake and pay attention, jammed in the back seat with two other guys.
Onward we drove, wondering where Mt. Mckinley was. At about 2:00am in the morning we were a bit confused as we must have passed Mckinley but we hadn't seen it. Then we saw a turnout with a tourist type kiosk and got out to check our bearings. There was a brass map on a rock showing where we were at the time and where other landmarks were. Mt. Mckinley was roughly 150 miles behind us. We drove right past it.
We turn around and around three hours later figure we're driving by Mckinley, except we can't see it because of the clouds. That's why we missed it. Clouds all the way down to the foothills. That was around the same place we almost ran into a moose earlier. Looking at the terrain between us and the mountain, though, I recognized it from the classic pictures of Mt. Mckinley, with fields turning into trees and then the foothills of Mckinley. We just couldn't see the mountain itself.
We drove on and Tom said we were getting low on gas. I'm worried we're going to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere but we run into an old country store with gas pumps after a bit. It was 7am and the place didn't open until 8. There we sat until they opened, mostly crammed in the back seat half asleep. We got gas and headed back to the fort, stopping at some other isolated country restaurant for breakfast, then back the rest of the way.
Hours and hours of driving and no Mt. Mckinley. Oh, well. It was still kinda fun and a life experience despite our cramped quarters.