Pointing the troopy south, we make our way back to Denali. The Highway of the same name begins about 40kms south of the park entrance and heads east for 215 kms where it meets the Richardson Highway. All but 35 km is gravel, which is variable but generally good. We decided to travel the Denali Highway because we had heard from other travellers about the magnificent mountain views along the way and the lack of traffic we would come across. As it was, the smoke from bushfires to the south put paid to any significant distant views and it being the Labor Day long weekend and beginning of the hunting season (not sure which poor animal this applied to) meant we weren’t exactly alone on the road.
However, our timing could not have been better for us to be absolutely amazed at the stunning vistas of autumn color everywhere. As the day went on the sky cleared and the views of the mighty snow capped ranges that surround this road, added to the spectacle.
The ‘wow’ meter was turned all the way up and the cameras got a good workout! We did manage to just complete the length of the highway and after turning north, stopped for the night in the shadow of the Gulkana Glacier.
The night was memorable because it was our first successful experience of the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. After a couple of false starts north of Fairbanks and a night on the Parks highway a few days before, we were rewarded sometime after 1.00am with the strange and eerie streaks, bands, whirls and flowing shapes of the aurora. The speed at which shapes formed and changed, appeared and disappeared was not what we expected and although it was probably not as spectacular as the mid winter displays, we fell into bed cold and gratified for the experience. Thank goodness we have nice little heater in the car to make it toasty warm.
Heading north in the morning, we followed the Alaskan Pipeline to Delta Junction and then turned southeast onto the Alaskan Highway and headed towards the Canadian Border and back into the Yukon.
After a wild camp on a lake, we continued southeast, tracking the edge of Kluane National Park to the south. The changing colors of the landscape and the distant views of the Elias Range made the kms fly by and by mid afternoon we crossed back into Alaska just short of our destination of Haines.