If you ever make it to the awesome that is Denali National Park there is a 99% chance that you will see the park by shuttle bus. I know you're thinking plush shuttle buses but no, these are school buses. Just like the ones you remember riding to school on. Denali National Park uses school buses to move people in and out of the parks' 92 mile one way road because it enables them to closely monitor the impact visitors have on the ecosystem and the wildlife. Too many cars on the road means the animals will stay the hell away, and POOF, no more bear sightings.
When my parents were here in early June we climbed on our shuttle bus like good children and bumped along as the amazing country rolled past. I thought I was seeing some of the most beautiful land Alaska had to offer.
Then towards the end of the summer I applied for the Denali Road Lottery, which is a lottery open to anyone that opens the park road for four days allowing winning ticket holders to drive their own car onto the park road. Stop where you want. Stretch where you want. Stop and look at the views for as long as your heart desires.
Maybe even stop to grab a snack out of the cooler and have your driver think it's funny to drive away and leave you on a deserted park road. Don't worry, people will laugh and take pictures as you run after the car and try to jump back in.
So when I did this, when I traveled Denali at my own pace, with a cooler full of snacks in the back, surrounded by amazing company in the middle of the Alaskan fall bloom I realized that earlier this summer Denali was just playing with us.
She saves her best for last.
(While in the park we had 9 bear sightings! NINE! This guy was the closest to the road.)
It was a very very long day, but it was one of those moments where I had to pinch myself to remind myself I live a few hours south of this amazing wild place.
Put it on your bucket list. You wont be sorry.