Alaska - Denali National Park, Palmer, and Some Things Between - Days Three & Four
Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Our original plan was to hang out in the Denali National Park area for about three days. However, we quickly and unfortunately found out that when the winter is quickly approaching at Denali, things start to shut down. After they closed the park road to just 15 miles, it left very little of Denali National Park to truly explore.
We made another early morning drive through the park to see if we could spot any moose or bears, but didn’t have any luck. We then checked out the winter visitor center, which was just an indoor picnic area with bathrooms. Our original plan was to wait until it warmed up a bit to do another hike, but the weather was not in our favor at Denali. The temperatures actually dropped the further we got into the park, and there were no signs of the temperatures warming up until a lot later in the day.
With that, we made the decision to cut our stay at the Blueberry Cottage short and start heading further south. We grabbed some hot chocolate and coffees for the road, and were on our way.
Along the drive, we stopped at the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area to stretch our legs and take in some more beautiful fall scenery. Since we didn’t have any time constraints, we made sure to stop at all of the little shops along the way that looked interesting too. I may have been cut short on how many times I got to visit the Denali sled dogs, but I did get to see probably about ten dogs on trails and in shops - so that was something.
Finally, we decided to settle in for the night in Palmer. We found a tiny home through Airbnb, and went with it. After scoping out the place, we took our chances on a local hike. Normally, I strategically research hikes to find the best use of our time. For some reason, though, this time, I actually decided to pick one that was close - without looking into any details about the trail at all. My Russian roulette skills apparently payed off when I chose W Butte Trail. Actually, we happened upon a few locals on the trail, and they told us that we had picked the most popular hike in the entire area.
When we got back to our tiny home, I headed back out for a short run. The beauty of our new location was that it was about a block from a bike trail that extended for miles in either direction. Even better - the trail went straight toward a mountain range. On my out and back run, I was able to stare at the beauty that is Alaskan mountains for half of the time.
I got back from the run, got a shower in, and we were ready to enjoy some Netflix before bed. Getting away from electronics and civilization can be nice, but it also gives us so much more appreciation once the opportunity arises to watch The Originals on TV.
Day four started out wonderfully because I actually slept in until 6:45. When I did finally roll out of bed, I made us both coffee. Is there a better way to celebrate National Coffee Day?
We hung out and drank our coffees for a while as the sun came up. Once the first signs of light showed, we were off to our first adventure for the day.
Did anyone expect us to make a trip to Alaska without hiking at least one mountain? When we found our hike for W Butte, I also caught a glimpse of the Lazy Mountain trail. It was a mountain with a funny name, and sounded like the perfect morning hike.
It was a bit brisk before we got out of the tree line and into the sun. Other than that, though, the hike was everything a mountain hike always tends to be - beautiful, mystifying, grounding, and a reminder of how big the world truly is (and just how small each of us is in comparison).
I had said earlier during the trip that there is nothing quite like seeing a river flowing through snow-covered ground, but it is honestly no comparison to the views from the top of a mountain. The hard work and dedication to reach the top to see those views just add to the beauty of the entire adventure. There is truly nothing else like it.
We hung out at the top for a while, enjoying the entire peak to ourselves. Zac shimmied over to the flag that signified the summit, and signed our names in a logbook. We also left a little piece of our hearts there - a keychain from Alma, Colorado.
Finally, we were headed back down to the car. An extra fun part about the hike was that it split into two - one very direct route "The Lazy Mountain," and one route with a lot of switchbacks and less elevation gain per mile, "The Lazy Moose." Because of this, we were able to get to the top quickly with the direct route then make our way down slowly, enjoying the views back, on the route with more switchbacks. I'd be lying if I said I still didn't fall, but my knees thanked me for a less steep route down.
When we were back to the car, we had just enough time to try a local food truck before our next item on our to-do list. A special shoutout goes to Reuben Haus out of Palmer - because I had never thought to make a Reuben bowl with French fries, but it is a WINNING combo for sure. I would highly recommend to anyone in the area to give them a try.
After we stuffed ourselves silly (or at least I did), we were ready to visit the Reindeer Farm! Now, I didn't know exactly what to expect when we signed up for a tour, but I didn't expect to have the absolute time of my life. We saw:
And even a pig!
Not only did we get to see all of these wonderful creatures, but we also got to pet most of them. We even got to feed the reindeer and alpacas. Guys, one of the alpacas was a baby and they named it Alfredo. I cannot get over how cute it all was, and already told Zac we need to redirect our lives to open a farm.
Lastly, we were even given the chance to "kiss" a moose through the fence. Zac didn't take the opportunity but you all know I sure did. His name was Rocky, and he was so docile because he was orphaned by his mama at three days old - then bottle-fed by humans for the first six months of his life.
The Reindeer Farm was the last of our adventures for the day before heading further south to Seward. Fingers crossed for some Northern Lights sightings tonight since we haven't had any luck so far!