North Face Lodge is a very interesting place. There is the camp and then there is the lodge. We are at the lodge with bathrooms in our room and the restaurant/living area a few steps away. The camp has cabins with a good hike to the outhouses and the community shower room with only cold water. This is not a place for a cold water shower. The hike from the cabins to where you eat is about twenty minutes.
Everyone at the lodge feels the same way about camping. I tell the story about how we slept in the barns at horse shows when I was young. I am very happy I had that experience because I wouldn’t want to miss any of life’s experiences, but it taught me that I can rough it all day, but at night I want a hot shower and a nice comfortable room and bed. The lodge is for me. Thank goodness Tom agrees. I guess that is why we get along so well.
Yesterday, we went for a van ride and made lots of different stops. Our guide was very interesting as are all of the naturalists that we have met. They are all gypsies and have lived everywhere and are always looking for a job. This must be extremely competitive business. However, the guide we had yesterday has worked for North Face Lodge for ten years. She has done a lot of living off of the land, so yesterday we ate wild bluebell leaves that tasted sort of like spinach. We also ate many different berries and other sorts of leaves. I would probably kill myself because botany and I have never gotten along, so I think I will continue to buy my veggies at Publix. At dinner we had different wild leaves on our salad and flowers on top of our dessert. The food here is delicious.
However, last night one of the naturalists gave a talk on the relationship between botany and humans. As I have mentioned, botany and I are not friends, so Tom and I decided that we would sit out by our room and enjoy a glass of wine. However, that doesn’t last long here because the mosquitoes will carry you away. So, into the living area to listen to the lecture we went. It turned out to be very interesting and he was a captivating speaker. He made you want to learn about plants. Maybe if I had had a teacher like him earlier in life, I would love botany.
Anyway, we learned one very intriguing thing. We all know that blueberries are wonderful for us because they have antitoxins to help us keep healthy. Well, store bought blueberries have 20 to 30 ‘whatevers’ of antitoxins, but wild blueberries have 120 ‘whatevers.’ However, the wild berries we ate yesterday on our walk have over 500 ‘whatevers.’ So since I will not be living here to pick wild berries, I will buy more often from the Produce Market.
We also saw a lot of birds on our outing and Tom has some great photos. Our guide was insistent that we experience walking through some spongy tundra. That is an area where mosses sit on permafrost which of course is ground that never thaws. The more strenuous outings walked all day on that stuff or in the mud. I walked in the spongy tundra the length of my kitchen, and that was enough for me.
We then ate lunch on a hill, and I felt like we were in the movie, The Sound of Music. Mt. McKinley wasn’t completely visible but it was still beautiful. We are here before the main throng of visitors, so we felt like we owned the world, if even for a moment. The park really limits the number of visitors, but I guess from what everyone says there are still a lot of people around once the park really gets moving. Of course compared to Yellowstone this is still the wilderness with a capital ‘W.’
The park has been expanded twice because they discovered that they had not protected the entire migration route of the caribou. Originally, North Face Lodge sat just outside the park but when the park was expanded, North Face Lodge and the Camp were incorporated into the park. Because of that, we are allowed to drive back and forth into the park where other people can only come into the park for a day and then have to leave.
If you want to hike in Denali, you have to apply for a permit, and you don’t actually know which unit of the park you are going to be allowed to hike in until you arrive. I have always considered myself somewhat adventurous but after seeing this land, I am a wimp. You can also apply for a permit to tent camp. You ride a bus into the park and then ask the bus to stop wherever, get off the bus, and then stand out by the road when you want to leave. After seeing this park, remember it is 365 million acres grand, so this tent camping sounds like a good way to never been seen again. However, they have only had one person killed by a bear. They found his camera and he was way too close and the bear got sick of him. If you want to climb Mt. McKinley you again apply for a permit, so they know how many people are climbing but many people are lost forever.
“While you are upon the earth, enjoy the good things that are here…” – John Selden
More to follow,
Tom & Holly