Runtrails' Web Journal
Previous       2012 Journal Topics       Home       Next



"I can't imagine what it would be like to not have something out there that I am  
dreaming about doing. There are still so many roads I want to do, I fear I will never   
get them all. I think the day I stop chasing dreams is the day I start to die."
~ another relevant quote from our ultra running friend, Gary Cantrell
AKA "Lazarus Lake" or "Laz" for short
Our third full day this time at Denali National Park was long and mostly fun but tiring for both of us as we pursued separate adventures today.

I had a memorable experience during my shuttle bus ride out to the Eielson Visitor Center and another solo hike on the alpine ridge in that vicinity. I'll describe all that in the next entry. This entry focuses on Jim's 46-mile bike ride on the park road, a repeat of a ride he really enjoyed on August 15.

Here's the park road map again, highlighting the portion he cycled:

All the photos in this entry are ones that Jim took during his ride today. It's a lot easier for me to take pictures while hiking than cycling so I'm always pleased when I discover that Jim took some pictures. He used our older 12-megapixel 4x optical zoom Canon compact digital camera. It's OK but doesn't capture as many details as the 16-megapixel 16x optical zoom Sony compact I use.

Pretty sure we'll have a digital SLR with one or more long lenses next time we come up here . . . although it'll be harder to carry while hiking or cycling.


I've described the rather complicated Denali National Park bus system previously in some detail so I won't reiterate all that again.

Bottom line = most visitors can't drive their own vehicles past the Savage River at Mile 15 of the park road during the summer season unless they have reservations to camp at the Teklanika River Campground.

If they want to reach other places between Savage River and Kantishna (Miles 15 to 92) they have to take one of several kinds of tour buses. Ticket prices vary with the type and length of tour.

Sanctuary River

Only one type of bus is free -- the shuttles designated "entrance area." Today Jim used this bus system for the first time.

Entrance area buses stop at about a dozen places between the park entrance area and Savage River at Mile 13. You can get on and off wherever you want. Stops include our campground (Riley Creek), the mercantile building, post office, main visitor center, Wilderness Outdoor Center, railroad depot, Murie Science Center, park headquarters, and several trailheads between the park entrance and Savage River.

There are both advantages and disadvantages of the free shuttle bus system -- it's free and convenient for some visitors, but you may have to endure a lot of other stops to get where you're going.

It helps a lot if you know when the buses are supposed to arrive/depart the stops in which you're interested so you don't just miss one and have to wait a while for the next bus to arrive. If you're going to use the free shuttle system, get a schedule and carry it with you.

Note that the times may change during the spring and fall shoulder seasons when there are fewer visitors in the park. Be sure your schedule coincides with the dates you're in the park.

View west toward Denali from Primrose Overlook at Mile 17

Denali from Primrose Overlook (above) when the mountain was mostly obscured by hazy clouds;
I darkened the close-up below so it's easier to make out the snow-covered north and south peaks.

Until now we've just driven our own truck out to Savage River several times to avoid the hassles.

The system is great, however, for reducing the number of vehicles on the first fifteen miles of the park road and for folks who visit and don't have their own transportation while they're in the park (mostly people who get there on tour buses or the Alaska RR).


I'm happy to report that Jim had a no-hassle ride on the free Savage River shuttle bus this morning. 

The first stop in the shuttle "loop" is at Riley Creek Campground about a half mile from our campsite. Rides start pretty early each morning but Jim waited until the 10:20 AM bus so it would be warmer when he began his bike ride.

One of his concerns was whether he'd have to wait until a bus came that had room for his bike. Not to worry. He was the first person on and was able to get his bike on the rack. Very few people got on at the subsequent stops, either.

Above and below:  view east toward the Savage River valley from the Primrose Overlook at Mile 17

It takes about an hour for the bus to make its rounds from the campground to Savage River. Jim got there about 11:20 AM and began riding a few minutes later.

By then it had warmed up enough that he had no problem staying warm while cycling.


Jim ended up with 46 miles again, riding the same route he enjoyed two weeks ago Ė west for fifteen miles to the Teklanika River Campground, where he got water, then back to our site at Riley Creek Campground. He didn't use the shuttle bus on the return.

A second concern he had was whether he could get water at the Tek and Savage River campgrounds. Temps were near freezing last night at the entrance and probably even chillier at Tek, which is at a higher elevation. He was able to get water in both places, approximately 15 and 33 miles into his ride. He carried enough fluids in his pack to get by in case either or both places had the water shut off.

Jim didnít see any large wildlife this time but sure loved the scenery and being able to see Denali (the mountain) from different points along the park road.  

He took some good photos of the taiga (some look like paintings) and even saw a bunch of red salmon swimming in one of the streams. We heard there arenít any fish in the park streams because of the glacial silt but that must have been incorrect information or we didn't hear it correctly. You can read more about fishing in the park here.



No, those aren't red leaves; when I zoomed in on the original photos I could see fish eyes!

The only problems Jim reported were loose dirt where the road had recently been graded (I noticed that on the bus, too) and a really long uphill coming back from Tek to Savage River. He felt stronger this time than last, however, which made that climb easier for him.

The long climb outbound at the beginning of his ride from Savage River to Primrose Overlook was less taxing this time, too. He's been riding more miles and is obviously getting better trained.

Above and below:  views toward the east from about Mile 4 of the park road;
you can see the Alaska RR trestle over Riley Creek below.

Jim was a tired but happy camper when he got done with his ride. He had time to shower, eat supper, feed and walk Cody, and relax before I got back about 8 PM.

Next entry:  my Eielson bus ride, hike, and interesting lesson about the extent to which "bears rule" at Denali

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

Previous       Next

© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil