After arriving at Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the bar and prepared for our afternoon hike.
McKinley Princess Lodge is beautiful! It’s unique for many ways. For one, it can show you one of the greatest views of Denali. However, only an estimate 40% of the guests will see it because of the pesky clouds it almost constantly hides behind. Denali stands at 20,320 ft, so it is hard to miss. With so many surrounding foothills and peaks within view, and all of us so eager to lay eyes on it, we thought we saw Denali a couple times. However, we were told, “If you are unsure if you are looking at it, it’s not Denali.” In addition to a traditional “Wake-up Call”, the lodge offers a “Mountain Call”. Someone is always on the look for the mountain, and when it comes into view, they will call all the rooms so you can get a chance to view the peak! We didn’t get a chance to see the peak while at the lodge, but it showed itself to us in the near future.
Another way its super unique is Princess Cruises created these lodges to expand their business onto the land before or after cruises. The lodges are only in operation from May through September.During the season (May-September) Princess employees and houses about 2,000 employees. On September 21st, the employees drop to 30. Just a couple people at each lodge to stay back and make sure all is well…..AKA The Shining. NO THANKS. There are entire towns in function because of the lodges. Signs on the road ways say “All Services May-Sept, 2 Miles Ahead”. People bring their RVs and park them behind the coffee shops, gift shops, ice cream parlors, gas stations, and live there for 4 months, working in the shops all day before returning home during the off-season.
One thing I love about the summer months in Alaska is the length of the days due to the crazy amount of sunlight. The sun rises around 4am and sets around 11pm. We were able to go on an evening hike from 2-8 pm around Lake Byers. I was originally not interested in hiking with a tour guide, but he was truly awesome. First, he prepared us with all the proper gear, equipping us with rain coats, pants, boot covers, hiking poles, hats, and anything we needed. I opted for the rain pants, and am very glad I did, walking the brush and mud, I would have ended up incredibly wet and muddy.
Our guides name was Will, and he was extremely knowledgable. I learned a lot while hiking 5-6 hours with him. The trails were lined with wild blueberry plants. They were delicious, and we ate copious amount along the way. Another plant we learned about was called the wild cucumber. It looks like a little reddish-pink jelly bean hanging from some leaves. Its squishy. It tastes like the perfect combination of watermelon and cucumber. Refreshing!
Lake Byers is a salmon spawning area. We saw all sorts of salmon in different parts of their life cycle. We learned a lot about the plants, birds, fish and wildlife during the hike. It was a beautiful day with only minimal rain, a short 5-10 minute drizzle towards the very end.
After the hike, we had dinner at the Lodge Restaurant, aptly named Twenty Three Twenty (20,320) which is the height of Denali. We had some great laughs during that dinner. My dad and I were crying over the silliest things. I think we were becoming delirious because of too much oxygen, not enough sleep, time zone change, and good beers. After our late dinner, we got ready for the next day!