After Monday’s bus ride with surly Mike, even though the weather was again perfect for seeing Mount McKinley, I decided I was ” bused out ” and stayed at camp all day. The four straight days of nine hour bus rides can really start to take a toll on an old body like mine. These buses were designed for smaller, younger bodies, and even then only for hour or less trips to school and back, not for nine hour rides on bumpy gravel roads. Plus, being sort of a hermit, four days of being crammed into a metal tube with thiry something other folks just plain makes me feel very uncomfortable.
Plus the nice warm weather means there once again would probably be no wildlife to see and again arriving at McKinley in the harsh noon day light would mean I wasn’t going to get any better images of the mountain than what I already had.
So on Wednesday morning I was up and out to once again catch the first bus out, to Wonder Lake. As it pulled up, it once again appeared to be close to full, and when the door opened and it was ” Surly Mike ” driving, I decided I could wait for the second bus through and waved him on.
The next bus out was one of the larger, snub nosed type that just happened to have much more comfortable seats. Also, this one had a very personable driver by the name of Rex, a pleasant and vast improvement over Mike. Although this type of bus carries over forty passengers, there was only one window seat open and when I slid in, it quickly became apparent why, it was a seat over the wheel well so there was no room for your legs, unless you happened to be about four feet tall and under the age of eight. How an adult could share this type of seat with another adult is completely beyond my comprehension, so if another two or three passengers were to get on, this would become quite interesting/uncomfortable. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Although we didn’t have the clear blue skies of Monday, the temps were still quite warm and as a result, we really saw nothing in the way of wildlife on our trip out to Eielson. The moutain was covered in clouds today, so no mountain shots either.
This bus did not continue on for the three hour trip out to Wonder Lake and back, but turned around at the Eielson Visitor’s Center, and that definitely worked for me today.
Back at the campground a wicked thunderstorm hit in late afternoon with some of the most ear splitting cracks of thunder I have ever heard. Torrents of rain from this storm caused a mudslide that blocked the Park Road buses for hours late in the afternoon, so glad I got back to the campground early today.
A new bus schedule went into effect today, so the first early bus I had been taking, turns out was eliminated. So the new first bus out left it’s starting point at a slightly more reasonable hour for most normal folks, and as a result, was completely full when it reached the Teklanika Campground. I decided I could wait another half hour for the next bus, so no big deal. That bus also was completely full.
So, that was enough of this rather miserable bus riding experience for me, and even though I still had paid camping reservations left here for another six nights, I decided to pack it in and leave Denali National Park. I packed up and drove back out to the Riley Campground dump station and dropped my trash, dumped my tanks, filled with water, and got caught up with emails, then exited the Park and headed north on the Parks Highway to Fairbanks.
Leaving Denali and On to Fairbanks
I arrived at the Fairbanks Walmart around 4 PM and set up camp figuring I could unload the Prius and explore the area a little to figure out where to stay. This Walmart had a LOT of folks camped here, unfortunately some of them looked very much like homeless people camped long term in their beat up old vans, with dogs tied to the door handles and trash strewn around their rigs. Not a good sign, and most likely to mean a ban on overnighting here in the future.
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