Day Thirteen

A lazy morning, checked email, checked the mountain (still not out), checked the Ranger programs (nothing early) so I checked out the gift shop. We’ve seen a lot of gift shops on this trip and this one is not too bad! I found a jigsaw puzzle I had not seen anywhere else that I liked; actually there were two by the artist, Terry Lee, that I liked but I settled for the bear instead of the moose. I love his impressionistic style, bold brush strokes and unexpected colors. I used to LOVE to do puzzles before quilting took all of my time and the little I did on the ship reminded me that I should MAKE time for the other things I enjoy. I’ve tried not to make many purchases on this trip because our bags are very close to the weight limit already but the puzzle is light.

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One last sculpture from McKinley, before we go.

Right after lunch we board the bus for Denali, the ride takes over two hours but it goes quickly as the bus driver and the scenery keeps us entertained.

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We have activities scheduled for later, a horseback ride for me and an ATV adventure for my husband. It’s cool and overcast and we hope it doesn’t rain.

The Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is a bit of a disappointment after the last one. It’s nice, but just doesn’t quite have the ambiance we enjoyed at McKinley. It seems more like a big hotel, more commercial. Maybe it’s the highway going by the front lined with tourist dives and eateries on the other side. On the back side it looks better; there’s a river and view of Mt Healy with a short paved riverside trail.

There’s another short bus ride to the stable where my horse awaits, and the three other ladies and I get acquainted. We have all ridden before, that’s good. For me it’s been quite awhile, nearly 20 years! My horse is a nice little bay called “Stumpy”. Not unexpectedly the saddle is western. I prefer English and the stiff stirrup leathers pull uncomfortably on my bad knee. We head out across terrain that goes from taiga to tundra.

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Taiga supports stunted tree growth – those little trees are probably 200 years old! – while tundra is only small shrubby bushes, plants and lichen. It’s all permafrost area so the ground is permanently frozen, but since it is summer the top foot or so is thawed. The horses sink into the mud with every step. Undisturbed ground that looks fairly dry is very wet below the surface. It’s a fragile alpine ecosystem and we stay on the trails. You can see the land is criss-crossed with caribou trails and we use some of those. Stumpy and one of the other horses are having a feud so we have to keep them separated. We come across the state bird, a willow ptarmigan with her chicks and the guide talks about the plants and animals of the area. My knee is screaming and since Stumpy seems pretty steady I finish the ride without stirrups, hoping not to be dumped in the mud and thankful that it is only for an hour! But it is nice to see the area up close like that and I’m glad I did it! The rain held off. We’ve been so lucky!

Back at the lodge I have time to relax before Charlie returns from his ATV adventure, so I have a nice visit with a lady who is waiting to go on HER horseback ride. My knee is feeling all better so I check email and head back to the room to get ready for dinner. This lodge has a Pizza place, and since we have not had that we go there and have Calzones which were quite good AND a bargain compared to the other options. These lodges do have good food, but it is expensive! Charlie tells me all about his adventure and I am happy that he had such a good time!

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2 Responses to “Day Thirteen”

  1. Gwynette Says:

    I’m curious about flies, gnats, and mosquitoes. Were they bad as you rode through the brush and on the trails?

  2. Ruth Says:

    No! I was surprised too, because riding in KS can be such a battle with flies. I asked the guide about it and he said they don’t have horseflies there. Mosquitoes were not a problem at all, perhaps because it was kind of cold with a breeze. I had repellent wipes in case, but really the only time mosquitoes were a problem on this trip was at the trapper’s cabin by the river. Not what we expected, but a pleasant bonus for sure!

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